BALTIMORE — "Thank God I'm here now and I've got an opportunity to live again."
John Micklus counts his blessings every day. A few months ago a COVID diagnosis had him at deaths door.
"When I relive all of this, it gets emotional," Micklus said. "I asked them what should I do. Is there anything I can do, the doctors recommendations there was to get my affairs in order, which I did."
His lungs were severely damaged from the disease but the La Plata man's wife wasn't ready to give up or give in. She reached out to University of Maryland Medicine to find out about their lung transplant program.
"There is the opportunity if your lungs are the only organ that's destroyed from COVID, we can replace them and essentially save your life."
And they did. Dr. Alexander Krupnick and his team from the University of Maryland Medical Center performed successful lung transplants on Micklus and another man.
"I was diagnosed with COVID. I thought I was in deep trouble," he said.
Anthony's case was more complicated because he's already got an underlying condition that put him at a greater risk.
"His lungs were so bad, that essentially they couldn't provide the oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide he had to go to an artificial lung to support him while waiting for a lung transplant,"Dr. Krupnick said.
Within days on the waiting list both men were matched with donors earlier this year.
"There's no word to say how thankful I am and grateful for the opportunity to live a little longer. I really appreciate what he did for me."
"I was lucky enough to get a match that they thought was suitable for me within a few days and from that point on they did the surgery and it turned out."
Their road to recovery will involve many more hospital visits.
"We're seeing our patients very regularly, weekly for the first couple of months, so they're tied to coming back to us picking up any problems whether it's infection or rejection," Dr. Krupnick said.
While Dr. Krupnick is thrilled with the success of Anthony and John's transplants, he's concerned about what the future holds for other COVID survivors who didn't have the option they did.
"We anticipate about 10 years from now there's going to be a lot of people that have had some damage that recovered their damage but the scaring is going progress and essentially will require them to have a lung transplant in 10 years," he continued.
John was discharged from the hospital March 30th. He's taking his second chance one day at a time. He hopes to one day meet his donors family.
"I will write them a letter soon to thank them for their family member being a donor and let them know how appreciative I am to receive their lungs...it's physically and emotionally draining, but it's an opportunity to live again."