A 70-year-old Vietnam War Army veteran was getting a decorated send-off from a VA hospital in West Los Angeles Friday after beating a severe case of coronavirus.
Jerry Salas left the VA hospital for the first time in 48 days.
“I made it! I made it, man!” he said.
Salas said he was going to be performing with his band in a double bill at the LA County Fair in September before it got canceled Thursday.
After what he's been through, not much bothers the Vietnam veteran anymore.
He was infected in late March and brought to the brought to the VA Hospital at 11301 Wilshire Boulevard in really bad condition a short time later.
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"He had respiratory failure. He was septic. He had renal failure," said Dr. Guy Soo Hoo, chief of critical care. "He's also 68 and living with other health issues that often mean death when it comes to COVID-19."
To make jerry's climb even steeper, doctors had to use two extreme procedures to save him.
"He was very close to not making it through this," Soo Hoo said.
He was intubated for almost an entire month, and then they had to perform a tracheotomy on him just to keep him breathing.
"It's one of the steps that actually saved his life," said Dr. Christian Head, the hospital's head and neck surgeon.
Salas has always given back to his VA family. He sings and teaches music to veterans suffering from PTSD, to name just one way.
His nephew-in-law says "Uncle Jerry" never forgot his army days in Vietnam.
"He survived some horrendous things, and we knew he was gonna make it," Martin Baeza, his nephew in law, said.
Salas has a habit of cheating death, his family says.
"I thought to myself: 'if 'Nam couldn't kill me, this can't kill me!'" Salas said.
He says his heart goes out to thousands of others going through what he did.
"If I can make it, they can make it," he said.