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Encanto man survives battle with COVID-19 using experimental treatment

Posted at 4:51 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 13:50:13-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - An Encanto man who nearly died from COVID-19 is back home with his loved ones, thanks to an experimental treatment.

"It was the most happiest day of my life. I thank God for every single blessing," said Janette Franco, 17.

An emotional daughter talked about her father, Antonio, 58, returning home after month inside an ICU battling COVID-19. His first symptom was a slight cough. A month ago, Janette heard a loud thud.

"Opened the door and he was right there, collapsed on floor. He couldn't breathe," she said.

Inside the ICU, his oxygen levels measured at less than 50 percent. He was put on a ventilator. The situation was dire. Doctors said his only chance to survive was an experimental lung bypass treatment using an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which pumps and oxygenates the blood. He was transferred to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

"It was very high risk. Every time phone rang, I was scared for him," said Vanessa Franco, 27.

It was scary and stressful, says his daughter Vanessa, because the three other members of the household were struggling with their own symptoms, including Antonio's wife Martha and his daughters.

"I prayed that I would make it through the night. You feel like you're drowning. You can't breathe," said Vanessa.

Vanessa and Janette would test positive for coronavirus. Their thoughts remained firmly on their father.

"Very scary and difficult. Just in shock," said Janette.

At one point, over the phone, Vanessa made her dad a promise.

"I told him, 'We are going to celebrate your birthday, so you have to stay strong. I promise that you will see us on your birthday,'" said Vanessa.

Then came a remarkable turnaround. A week and a half ago, Antonio was taken off the ventilator. On Saturday, his birthday, Antonio went home.

"Just such a miracle. Made my heart explode with happiness," said Janette.

Nearly everyone in the household continues to suffer lingering symptoms and have been out of work. Before the pandemic, they were in the market to buy a home.

"Now we're behind on several months rent," said Vanessa.

A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help with expenses.

A recent study out of Japan showed the high-risk ECMO treatment resulted in a 68 percent survival rate for COVID-19 patients, after conventional treatments failed to improve their conditions.