Unvaccinated Man Hospitalized by COVID for Half a Year Says 'Get the Shot'

A Colorado man who was spent more than five months in hospital after contracting COVID-19 has urged unvaccinated people to "get the shot."

Nate McWilliams became ill with the disease in June, when he was unvaccinated, and his condition worsened to the point where had to be hospitalized.

After being admitted to the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood—located to the south of downtown Denver—McWilliams was intubated and placed on a ventilator in the ICU in July, The Denver Post reported.

But McWilliams failed to respond to this treatment and so the medical team at Swedish decided to put him on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, also known as an ECMO, to give his lungs a break—a decision that saved his life.

The machine essentially does the job of the lungs, pumping blood from the patient's body to an artificial lung that supplies oxygen and removes carbon dioxide. The oxygenated blood is then sent back to the patient.

These machines—used for people suffering from a severe and life-threatening illness that stops their heart or lungs working properly—are in limited supply and not every patient will meet the criteria to be placed on one. Those who are hooked up to the machine require specialized care from a team of 15-20 people.

"We don't want people to think if they get sick they'll put me on that fancy ECMO machine," Dr. Mary Warner, Swedish's associate chief medical officer and a pulmonary critical care specialist, told the Post. The hospital only has five of the machines.

McWilliams managed to overcome the worst of the infection but complications from the disease meant he ended up staying a total of 158 days in hospital.

On Thursday, he was finally released from the medical center. More than 100 staff members cheered him on as he a nurse pushed him out on his wheelchair. When McWilliams reached the front door of the hospital, he shook his fists in the air in celebration.

He also had a message for those who have yet to be vaccinated: "Get the shot. Don't wait. Because you don't want to go through this."

Warner said McWilliams was "damn lucky" to be alive after his ordeal.

"This entire experience could have been prevented with one shot," she told the Post.

Despite having left the hospital, McWilliams still has a long way to go before he regains his full strength.

While most people with COVID-19 get better within a few weeks of illness, some people experience ongoing problems after contracting the disease—sometimes referred to as long COVID—that in some cases can last months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A man in hospital
Stock image of a man in hospital on an IV drip. Colorado man Nate McWilliams spent 158 days in hospital after contracting COVID-19. iStock