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‘MUCH WORSE THAN THE FLU’: Rochester man returns home after months of fighting COVID-19

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Nick Nhean receives treatment at a Dallas Texas hospital for COVID-19

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Nick Nhean is only 27 years old. For most people that age, getting COVID-19 is not much of a health issue.

Yet after Nick spent two months in intensive care, following a COVID-19 diagnosis. His family believes they might not have been cautious enough about the disease before that.

"We took a family trip to Texas. That's not being very diligent," said Nick's wife, Ashley. "We were still going to football activities with tons of people even if it is outside."

Ashley Nhean says this in hindsight after she, her son and husband all caught COVID-19 with different symptoms.

"COVID is not just a simple flu," Ashley said. "It can be for some people."

It was a little worse than the flu for Ashley. Her son Donovan suffered no symptoms. It impacted her husband Nick the worst. It started out similar to the flu, but the disease progressed quickly in his body.

"I almost felt delusional. I felt like I couldn't control what I was doing," Nick remembers. "My body temperature was so high that I couldn't cool myself down."

Within days, he fell into a coma.

"We had to make a decision whether to put him on this trial that wasn't even FDA approved. It was just a test," Ashley said. "At that time, they had only tested it on 20 people."

Nick's body responded to the trial but failed a few times, requiring an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, a last resort in the fight against COVID-19. An ECMO machine gets oxygen into the blood while bypassing the lungs.

While his family was bouncing between Minnesota and Texas, Nick's body was bouncing between life and death.

"We almost had to say goodbye to him four times," Ashley said. "He got off ECMO one day and within 24 hours was back on it again."

After two months in a coma. Nick was still alive. His recovery surprised even those treating him.

"When they were discharging him, we had doctors we had never seen before saying, ' Look man, we didn't expect you to make it. We are shocked. This is a miracle,'" Ashley said.

Nick says he feels a roller coaster of emotions since awaking from the coma.

"It almost gives me a sense of remorse but I'm thankful that I'm here," he said. "I'm blessed I get to see my family and my son still. I got a second chance so I'm taking advantage as much as I can."

The family has a message to those at home.

"Wear your masks," Nick urges.

Definitely wear your masks," echoed his son, Donovan.

"Properly," adds Ashley.

Nick is back in Minnesota undergoing physical therapy, especially respiratory therapy for his lungs.

He says his son helps motivate him to continue fighting and hopes to be able to get back to doing things he loves like playing football and bowling.

Alex Tejada

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