On July 13, 2020, Javier Lastra tested positive for Covid-19. On the 10th day, after losing his sense of taste and smell, his oxygen levels dropped dangerously low and he was rushed to the hospital.
“I thought I was having a major anxiety attack, but it turned out that I was almost on the brink of lung failure,” said Javier.
Javier stayed at the hospital for 14 days, but the damage was already done. Fearing that his condition would worsen, Javier’s doctors transferred him to Tampa General Hospital by helicopter, where he was cared for by the Progressive Care Unit (PCU) team. He says he doesn’t remember anything after being wheeled out.
“The goal with each of our patients is to liberate them from their ventilators and reunite them with their families as quickly as possible,” said Andrea Dahlgren, Unit Manager of the PCU at TGH. “In Javier’s case, we deployed an aggressive, multidisciplinary Plan of Care to free him from his life support systems and help him re-learn how to do everything from walking to chewing.”
Javier was placed into an induced coma so that he could go on a ventilator and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), two forms of life support, and he also underwent several tracheostomies. The PCU team utilized innovative tactics, and even had him re-learning how to walk while he was in a coma on ECMO.
“I am so incredibly grateful for the PCU team at Tampa General Hospital. Their commitment and round-the-clock care is why I am free of my ventilator and ECMO machines, and most importantly, reunited with my family,” said Javier.
Javier’s wife was not able to visit him while he was in the hospital due to Covid-19, so the staff used Zoom to ensure they kept in contact.
“The PCU staff was like an extended family. They made sure I could see Javier over Zoom, even while he was in a coma. They also talked him out of the severe anxiety he experienced while weaning off the ventilator,” said Missi Lastra, Javier’s wife.
“After getting off of my ventilator, the hardest part was basically relearning the little things we do each day that we take for granted—like going to the bathroom or getting into bed by yourself,” added Javier. “If not for PCU, it would have taken many more months until I regained my independence.”
Before his diagnosis, Javier was a funeral policy salesman; and while in the hospital, he secured his own because he was convinced he was going to die.
Today, Javier lives at home with his wife, dog, and granddaughter. While he cannot currently work, he only needs oxygen at night, and has gone from 6-8 liters per night to 4 liters.
“Every day I’ve had with my family since leaving intensive care is a gift. Do not mess around with this potentially fatal disease. Wear your mask and get vaccinated if you’re eligible,” Javier concluded.
To learn more about what PCU does for our patients, visit our For Patients page.