By Frances Wang

PLANTATION (CBSMiami) – After 65 days in the hospital, on Thursday, Heydi Yudex officially beat COVID-19.

“She actually walked today [for the first time] with the use of the ECMO machine,” said her husband David Duran. “She was able to be taken off the ventilator.”

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Duran was also hospitalized with Yudex at Westside Regional Medical Center, but he recovered much quicker.

“I just saw her for two seconds and then I didn’t see her until a month ago,” said Duran.

The last two months have been an emotional rollercoaster for the couple, with what has felt like more downs than ups.

“When someone finds themselves in a situation alone, full of despair, your mind wanders to dark places,” said Duran. “A lot of thanks that I have in my heart for the staff here. They do make it easy to have that hope.”

Duran acknowledged each one of them as they passed by.

Things only recently turned the corner in the last week. From the beginning of her hospital stay, Yudex couldn’t breathe on her own and had to be placed on a ventilator.

Heydi Yudex walking with her ECMO machine. (Source: Westside Regional Medical Center)

Not long after, her lung function worsened. She had to be placed on EMCO, a new therapy used in COVID patients to provide oxygen.

“Her recovery certainly is miraculous,” said one of Yudex’s doctors, Nabir Babbar.

Getting an EMCO is difficult because there are strict criteria for the patients. Many patients placed EMCO usually remain sedated or are unable to get out bed until they’re able to come off the machine.

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Another rarity is for patients to recover enough to be added to the transplant list. Yudex is only the third patient at Westside with damage this extensive to do so.

“To [survive] and qualify for a lung transplant is very difficult,” added Dr. Babbar. “With her she’s been strong. She’s been a fighter. [She has an] amazing husband and family taking care of her.”

“I am mostly an auxiliary nurse,” joked Duran.

He’s been waking up at 4 every morning to check in with the ICU and remains by Yudex’s side until 8 at night, in his words, “when they kick me out.”

“I know how to cover her up really good and tuck her in,” said Duran of his new husband skills. “And how to clean her face.”

Duran admitted that the two weren’t vaccinated.

“I’ve been asked dozens of times why we weren’t vaccinated,” said Duran, who added that he did use his asthma as a reason. “Everything I could tell you is stupid.”

He said when he and Yudex are able, they will get their shots.

“From here on, I’m trying to live life as normal as we can, going forward,” said Duran.

Yudex is still waiting to get on the lung transplant list. Even when she gets one, the road will be long – it could be another year or up to 18 months before she recovers.

Duran is staying hopeful for his wife’s second chance at life.

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“We are thankful that somebody’s already made a sacrifice. Somebody out there we don’t even know, will never know,” said Duran, through tears. “For my wife to live. I’m thankful for that.”

Frances Wang