After a harrowing few weeks in which Dr. Kato battled multiple infections and had to be put on ECMO, an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine that pumps blood and oxygen through the body, his condition began to improve.
“We all felt a huge sense of relief when things started to improve,” notes Paula Peeler Bryan, one of the nurse practitioners who cared for Dr. Kato while he was in the medical ICU.
Peeler Bryan was caring for Dr. Kato the night his condition took a dramatic turn for the worse, and it became clear that he would need to be placed on ECMO to give him the best chance of surviving. “He was going into multisystem organ failure. We knew we had to act fast,” she says, recalling how she and fellow nurse practitioner Kaitlinn Goode alerted the care team that Dr. Kato was deteriorating.
Under the care of his colleagues and friends, Dr. Kato pulled through and began to build back his strength. Two months after being admitted to the hospital, he was discharged to the cheers of hundreds of people.
He then astonished those same colleagues when he came back to work in August 2020 and started performing surgeries again. Not long after, he began running, with the goal of entering the 2021 New York City Marathon.
“For me, it is almost a miracle that I was able to come back to do surgery at a regular pace,” he says. “But the marathon was something I was able to do before COVID, so I really felt like if I can do this, then I can sort of put some closure on this COVID story.”