ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County resident spent 47 days fighting for his life at an Orlando hospital. Juan Montaño Matamoros was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April, and while he was in self-quarantine, his conditioned worsened toward the end of his isolation.
“Me senté en una silla en la mesa y ya el cuerpo lo sentí todo decaido y los ojos se me cerraban,” in Spanish Montaño said he sat on a chair at the table and felt weak. He recalled he had trouble keeping his eyes open. “Llegó la ambulancia por mi y yo salí caminando. Me subí a la ambulancia y ya de ahí no me acuerdo de nada,” he said when the ambulance arrived, he walked out and got inside, but he doesn’t remember what happened afterwards.
“Juan came in as we say ‘crash and burn,’ meaning he got already placed on life support in a matter of hours,” Dr. Herman Gaztambide Rodríguez, a pulmonary critical care physician, said.
Gaztambide treated Montaño on the morning of April 19th. He said it was rare to see a COVID-19 patient younger than the at-risk age group.
“After Juan, we started seeing is the shift in age group so all of a sudden, we were not talking about 60 with past medical history, we were now talking about 20 to 40 years old with no past medical history and maybe a sign of obesity,” Gaztambide said.
The father of three arrived weak and with damage to his lungs.
“When his body was supposed to create antibodies, which happens about 10 to 14 days, which is the reason why you get better,” Gaztambide said. “In his case, when he underwent seroconversion, it was when he actually got worse. So, you have to see this as almost his own immune system started attacking his lungs.”
Gaztambide intubated Montaño and soon after placed him in an induced coma. Doctors treated Juan with Remdesivir, Dexamethasone, covalescent plasma therapy and placed him in a proning position.
"Proning is when you have someone lay on their belly. That's allowing the lungs to heal in a very different way," Gaztambide explained.
About six weeks later, Montaño woke up from his coma.
"Yo no sabía lo que estaba pasando, sino que ya cuando yo desperté dije ya me quiero ir pa' mi casa. Me quise parar de la cama, no tenía fuerzas en los brazos y ni en los pies," Juan said he didn't know what was happening when he awoke. That day he said he wanted to go home and tried to get out of bed but he had no strength in his arms or feet.
On June 5, Montaño was discharged from the hospital.
His family and hospital staff celebrated as he rolled out on a wheelchair with his arms lifted in victory. He said he’s now going to rehab to recover his strength.
Now home with his wife and kids, he said he’s just happy to be reunited with them and fortunate to have lived to tell his story.