EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — An Alamo man who was unvaccinated against COVID-19 is recovering after spending several weeks in the hospital.
Pepe Forina was dealing with medical complications from the virus, which led him to have a double leg amputation below the knee.
The 54-year-old was admitted into the COVID unit at DHR Health on July 26. It was earlier that week he found out he tested positive for COVID-19 and his wife, Margarita, called the ambulance after he was breathing heavily at their home.
After spending weeks in the hospital, Forina said the doctors told him and his family he was starting to get better but then his condition worsened.
“August 8th the doctor calls my wife and says ‘he is showing signs of improvement’.”
However, Forina also said, “August the 9th they call her back with a totally different message and said he might not make it overnight.”
The setback confused both Forina and his wife.
“Just like that he took a turn for the worse and they called us and then he was critically ill at that point, he went from going home to being critically ill,” said Margarita Forina.
He said he knew his medical condition took a turn when he looked at his legs.
“They took me out of the COVID Unit and into the ICU in the regular hospital. I looked at my feet and I knew something was wrong,” said Forina.
During that time Forina said he kept his faith and thankfully his family stayed as close as they could, even though it was one family member at a time. He said they were all prepared to say goodbye to him.
“My brother was in the ICU room with me. He bathed me in holy water from my head to all over my body. Basically, they gave me the last rites,” he said.
However, Forina remarkably made it through the night, surprising his own doctors like Dr. Federico Vallejo a Pulmonary and Critical Care Doctor at DHR Health.
“Either way you look at it he shouldn’t be alive. The odds were against him. It’s actually quite amazing that he had recovered,” said Dr. Vallejo.
Forina said he is thankful to be alive but further medical complications forced him to make a major decision concerning his legs.
“It was either amputate my feet and live or leave them on and die, so it was a no-brainer,” said Forina.
Dr. Vallejo said it isn’t uncommon to see these cases from COVID-19 patients like Forina, who suffers from Peripheral Vascular Disease and Hypertension, along with a mixture of high-risk factors that can lead to amputation.
“COVID itself can cause blood clots, we know 15% will have it. Then the use of medications to try to protect the heart and the brain,” said Dr. Vallejo.
Forina said he has to relearn how to do things like moving around on his own.
“It is a life-changing experience. I’m going to have to learn, basically, I’m a toddler again I’m going to have to learn new things that everyone takes for granted,” he said.
His Occupational Therapist at DHR Health, Julian Salinas, said he is already seeing improvements from when he started his therapy.
“Today was the first day he was able to transition from his bed to his wheelchair under his own power,” said Salinas.
Forina added he regrets his decision not to get vaccinated but hopes others can learn from his experience.
“It’s a choice and a choice that I made poorly. Learn from me and hopefully, you won’t be in the same situation that I’m in,” said Forina.
Dr. Vallejo said if Forina would have received the vaccine it is unlikely he would have had these medical complications, and he urges everyone to get vaccinated.