As the president of a bank and a trustee at a major university and large hospital system, Manny Ruiz tends to choose his words carefully.
But he wasn’t hesitant to use the word “miracle” repeatedly when he described his battle with COVID-19 with members of the board of directors of The Blood & Tissue Center Foundation on Monday, May 17.
In addition to a positive COVID-19 test in December, he also was diagnosed with double pneumonia. He had several close calls during his five days in the hospital, including one that required an emergency blood transfusion.
His recovery has been long – he just recently went back to work as president of TexStar Bank and resumed his duties as a board of trustee at Baylor University.
“This was a blessing in a lot of ways, because it’s allowed me to talk about my family and my faith,” he said. “And it’s allowed me to share stories about the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and the COVID vaccine.
“Do I like the journey that allowed me to do this? No, but it is a miracle. In being a miracle, I have to see the good and the blessings out of it.”
Not long after he was admitted to Baptist Hospital in San Antonio – where he also is a trustee – and before he was put on a ventilator, Ruiz “coded” – his heart stopped for four minutes. Another minute could have led to brain damage, he said.
“Those are things you think about after the fact,” he said. “Really, you’re just focused on living. ‘I just want to live and spend more time with my family.’ It was just a miracle there.”
A little after two days at Baptist, Ruiz was transferred to Methodist Hospital and placed on an ECMO device, which essentially takes over functions of the heart and lungs to allow the body to heal. He was later told that just 40% of COVID-19 patients survive on that last-ditch therapy.
And then the device malfunctioned and had to be replaced. A significant quantity of blood was left in the first device, which meant he needed a blood transfusion.
“That was my first experience with the work done by the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center,” he said. “A lot of people, they drive by, they hear about it, but they don’t think much about it till they themselves or a family member is a recipient of blood.”
That miracle led Ruiz to become a passionate advocate for blood donations. He put together a blood drive for Baylor alumni in San Antonio and has been working on organizing drives throughout Texas.
“We’re bringing awareness and we’re talking it,” he said. “I did an interview on TV over this; it’s not about Manny and this miracle story, it’s really been about the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.
“I’m just one person who got sick with COVID. But there are thousands of others in our community who get sick with other things. And there’s a vital role that the center plays in their treatment.”