ATLANTA — There's a serious warning for young people still on the fence about getting a COVID-19 vaccine from a 24-year-old Georgia man who chose not to do so.
Blake Bargatze just underwent a double lung transplant Monday after suffering complications from the virus. His mom, Cheryl, talked to 11Alive because Bargatze cant speak yet. She said he wants his experience to be a wake up call for people not getting the vaccine.
Blake had the transplant a few days ago, and doctors don't want him using his voice yet. He contracted COVID in April of this year after attending an indoor concert.
His mom said she talked to him about getting the shot just days before he went, but he told her he wanted to wait until it had been out a little longer. She works in the medical field and said she knows a lot of young adults Blake's age want to wait before getting it. But she wants his story to be a warning to them.
"I just don't want anyone else to go through this. It's horrific," she said.
This has been painful for the family.
"You hear the coughing, you hear the spasming. Four days after he went to the hospital, he was intubated," she said.
He was hospitalized in Florida, but his family brought him to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta where he could get on an ECMO machine. It pumped and oxygenated Blake's blood outside his body giving his lungs and heart a chance to rest.
But it wasn't enough.
"He wanted the chance, he wanted to live, so we did whatever we could to have that happen for him," she said.
They found a hospital in Maryland that could get him on a lung transplant list. He has a B- blood type, which is rare, but they found a donor almost immediately.
He was in such bad shape, he was on the top of the organ donation list.
"Blake was crying. And they're asking him, 'are you afraid?' And he said, 'no, I'm so happy.' He was so happy and knew it was all going to work out. And I felt the same way," she said.
Cheryl said she is forever grateful to Blake's donor - her son would not have survived without the transplant.
"It's OK to be mad, it's OK to be angry, like, 'why me?' I haven't heard that from him. You lay in this bed, and you have not control, the only thing he can control is his attitude," she said.
Blake doesn't want anyone else to go through what he has. He wants to use his experience to educate people about the COVID vaccine and get them to take it before they get sick.
"You fight, you persevere. Even if you think you can't get up on the side of the bed, you try," she said.
Blake got the COVID vaccine three days before his lung transplant - and some of his family members have gotten the shot, too.
His brother and cousin both decided to get vaccinated after what Blake went through - and after seeing his story - Blake hopes more people will make the same choice.
His friends and family started a fundraiser to help pay for medical and recovery expenses. He will be on medication for the rest of his life.