COVID-19 survivor defies the odds; shares life changing message

VIDEO: COVID-19 survivor defies the odds; shares life changing message

A Shoreline man who spent 18 days on a ventilator fighting COVID-19 back in March thought he wouldn’t make it.

But he defied the odds. And now, months later, 55-year-old Raymond Sismaet is in the best shape of his life.

“I’m running farther; I’m running faster. I’m doing hikes that I’ve never done before — the capacity, I’ve never done,” Sismaet said.

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But the Marine veteran, who had always been healthy and active, doubted whether anything was within reach when he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“The last memory was in the ER being rolled in. That could have been it,” Sismaet said.

Sismaet spent nearly a month at UW Northwest Hospital. In all, he spent 18 of those days on a ventilator.

“I realized at the hospital I may not have seen my children again. I may not see my wife, may not see my family,” he added.

He was treated with remdesivir, although he doesn’t know if that’s what helped him turn the corner.

As one of the hospital’s first coronavirus patients, everyone celebrated the day he got off the ventilator. But behind the smile, there’s also a sobering awareness.

“I finally came out of the intubation — I shuddered. I literally shuddered and broke down, realizing that I barely made it here. At the time, 50% of the people at the hospital didn’t make it. The people that were on that floor passed away. I was one of the lucky ones,” Sismaet said.

Granted his second chance, he got to work.

“I was dedicated to appreciate every day better than I did before and to get stronger, and to get better, to do my part in mitigating risk and being reinfected again,” he said.

It wasn’t easy. At first, he couldn’t even do one push.

“All of April, it didn’t feel like I was ever improving,” he said.

Finally, in May, his hard work started paying off.

“I finally felt there was hope. I finally got bigger lung capacity, and I haven’t stopped since. I kept working hard and got after it,” Sismaet said.

He even hiked one of the area’s toughest trails for the first time, climbing 4,000 feet up to Mailbox Peak on both the old and new trails within three months.

A man who couldn’t even catch his breath seven months ago is now playing the ukulele and even singing again.

“A lot of people do know where I came from. So they’re amazed — one, that I’m out there standing in front of them, able to sing, which I didn’t know I would be able to,” he said.

With a renewed sense of purpose, Sismaet hopes that sharing his experience will inspire others.

“Nothing being squandered — joy, value, kindness for everyone. To focus time where you want and is meaningful. And live well. I’m not going to waste time. And I think that’s what drives me,” he said. “I’m really stopping, if you will, to breathe.”