‘He wished he had gotten the vaccine:’ Local man battling COVID-19 from ICU for months

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Blake Bargatze, 24, was the only one in his family to not get vaccinated and now he remains in a hospital ICU more than three months after contracting COVID-19, according to his family.

“I just don’t ever want anybody else to go through this,” his mother Cheryl Nuclo told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson.

Bargatze was infected with the virus in April while in Florida, his family says, and has needed a double lung transplant and months of intensive care at hospitals in three states.

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The Gwinnett County native vaped regularly, but his mother says he has no underlying conditions.

“No diabetes, no hypertension,” she said. “Just a 24-year-old kid.”

Bargatze is getting treatment at a Maryland hospital after being transferred there from Atlanta for his transplant. His family says he likely picked up the virus at an indoor concert.

“He had called me that Friday when he got the results,” Nuclo said, “and he’s like, “Mom, you’re going to be mad. I got COVID.’”

Doctors across the country say virtually all of their COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

“He wanted to wait a few years to see you know, if there’s any side effects or anything from it,” said Paul Nuclo, his stepfather. “As soon as he got in the hospital, though, he said he wished he had gotten the vaccine.”

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As of Tuesday night in Georgia, 669 people are in hospitals battling the disease.

That number had been declining for months but it’s been slowly going up since late last month.

“I do worry that we probably will expect some impacts in the Atlanta metro,” said Dr. Amber Schmidtke with the University of St. Mary in Kansas. “We’re already seeing patient census for COVID-19 increase in hospital region D which is the Atlanta metro.”

Case are up 23% in Georgia according to the latest White House COVID-19 Task Force report. Deaths are down 44%.

However, Dr. Patrick O’Carroll with the Atlanta-based Task Force for Global Health worries about the more transmissible Delta variant amidst a rise in patients.

“The people who haven’t been vaccinated are is as much in danger now because of the Delta variant than they were 12 months ago,” Dr. O’Carroll said.

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For Cheryl Nuclo, she’s thankful her son is still fighting, and now pushing for others to get a shot.

“Maybe if some people were kind of on the fence and swaying, he wants them to see what might be the extreme of what can happen,” she said. “Not using a fear tactic, but it can happen.”

Friends of Bargatze are helping raise money for his medical expenses and his recovery. You can find out more about that here.