Oklahoma firefighter receives double lung transplant after contracting COVID-19, released from hospital

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) — A Stillwater firefighter is getting a second chance at life.

You may remember Capt. Randy Blake’s story from last November.

Blake contracted COVID-19 at the end of October and was left fighting for his life.

Capt. Randy Blake
Capt. Randy Blake

Just two days ago, he was able to walk out of a Phoenix hospital after a double lung transplant.

“It completely blindsided me,” Blake said. “I never, never in a million years thought it would hit me this hard. I felt like for a 44-year-old guy, I was in pretty good shape.”

In Tulsa, he was put on ECMO for 5 weeks, then a ventilator for 7 weeks.

An ECMO, or extra-corporeal (outside of the body) membrane (in the machine) oxygenation (providing oxygen), is an invasive therapy used for patients whose lungs are so damaged that ventilation via a breathing tube in the airway attached to a mechanical ventilator is not sufficient to provide oxygen nor release carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, according to Forbes.

Since then, his journey hasn’t been an easy one. He recently received a double lung transplant at a hospital in Phoenix.

“This transplant wouldn’t be possible without all the support we’ve received from back home, in my hometown of Stillwater,” Blake said. “It’s a work in progress. My lung transplant was about 3 1/2 weeks ago. So, the first initial stages I made some progress. But I lost like 55 pounds over the last four months. My recovery is gonna be months and months trying to get back to where I was at. The doctor said 8 months to a year.”

Blake tells us he’ll be staying in Phoenix for another three months for doctor’s appointments and checkups. But he’s more than ready to get back home to his kids.

“Oh my gosh, that’s the reason I’m fighting. Why I’m going through this. My wife has been just solid gold. She’s taken such good care of me. She deserves more credit then she’ll ever know. And my kids, they’ve had to experience some things that you never wish on anybody. Having to come potentially say goodbye to their dad because the doctors didn’t think I was gonna make it,” Blake said.

Blake says he already has plans for when he officially is released to head back to Oklahoma and even beyond that– hoping to pay it forward to the doctors, staff and support system who he says saved his life.

“My goal is just, I didn’t think that I was going to make it. I’ve had a long time to think about this. Just, with this second chance at life to honor God and his mercy that he’s shown me, and the person who donated these lungs to me. I don’t know who they are, they won’t give me their name and information for a year but that’s a sacrifice that I’ll never be able to repay,” Blake said.

Blake tells KFOR he got to see his kids for the first time about three weeks ago. He says they got to spend about 45 minutes together outdoors– all while wearing protective gear. But he says it was totally worth it to be able to see them in person. 

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