EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — A Texas man who was unvaccinated against COVID-19 is recovering after complications from the virus led to a double leg amputation.
Pepe Forina, who spent several weeks in the hospital, had both legs amputated below the knee.
The 54-year-old was admitted on July 26 after his wife, Margarita, called an ambulance after he was breathing heavily at their home. Earlier that week, he had tested positive for COVID-19.
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.
“Aug. 8 the doctor calls my wife and says, ‘He is showing signs of improvement.’ Aug. 9 they call her back with a totally different message and said he might not make it overnight,” he said.
He knew his medical condition had taken 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, my feet were black, and that’s when I knew something was wrong,” he said.
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 in the room. 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 made it through the night, surprising his doctors, including Dr. Federico Vallejo, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas.
“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 Vallejo.
Forina said 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.
Vallejo said it isn’t uncommon to see these cases from COVID patients like Forina, who suffers from peripheral vascular disease and hypertension, along with a mixture of high-risk factors that can lead to amputation.
Forina said he has to relearn how to move 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, 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 said 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,” he said.
Vallejo said if Forina would have received the vaccine, it is unlikely he would have had these medical complications. He urges everyone to get vaccinated.