COLUMBUS, Ohio — A COVID-19 vaccination was on the ‘to-do’ list for an Indiana man for weeks last summer, but he didn't get to check it off soon enough.
Mike Kaster, 60, came down with the virus before he was able to get his vaccine in 2021. His symptoms went from bad to worse and landed him in the hospital for weeks.
He had an immense struggle to breathe but Kaster pushed back against any attempt to put him on a ventilator. At the time he said he’d heard stories about patients with COVID-19 dying after being intubated, so he was fighting that happening to him.
The fight fizzled on August 5, the day before his 38th wedding anniversary. Kaster’s condition had deteriorated and he needed a double lung transplant and heart surgery because he had a blockage.
The procedures required specialized treatment because of the complexity, but a hospital in Indiana declined. That is when the Kaster's found that treatment at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was a possibility.
Treatment would require using the new ECMO transport system that Ohio State had set up during the pandemic.
In the meantime here in Columbus, Wexner Medical Center was packed with COVID-positive patients and medical staff dealing with the challenges and emotions of losing patients to the virus.
During the dire situation, a lung match was found for Kaster.
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center transplant surgeons Brian Whitson and Matthew Henn led the intense massive team that performed a double lung transplant and coronary artery bypass.
The procedure was successful, which is just about all Kaster can remember.
“I woke up (on) September 8 and look around at the wall. It says, 'Ohio State University,'” Kaster said.
Kaster returned home 101 days after he was first admitted to the hospital. During that time, he also returned to his fitness regimen, in addition to prescribed therapies.
Before getting COVID-19, Kaster had been healthy and was training for a half marathon.
While he still experiences fatigue, he’s back to work and exercising at the gym.