Maryland man suffers from illness while mountain climbing abroad

While vacationing in Bangladesh last month, Garth Thorpe felt an unusual urge to return home to the U.S. He normally wouldn't change a flight, but he is thankful that he did.

On his 14-hour flight home, he suddenly became quite ill.He was sweating and his chest hurt badly.

“I couldn’t move—couldn’t lift a cup or anything,” he said, adding “it got worse and worse and worse.”

When the 29-year-old lifelong athlete and experienced mountain climber finally arrived in Baltimore, he couldn't even lift his suitcase.

“He would say a few words and then he’d [breathe heavily]…I’d never seen that before,” said his mother, Heidi Thorpe.

His parents rushed him to Anne Arundel Medical Center. Garth’s lungs were filled with fluid-- and he desperately needed help breathing from an artificial lung.

So, doctors immediately transported him to University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Dr. Jose Garcia says Garth was within one hour of dying.

“He was about to go into cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Garcia, who is a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“His oxygen levels were so low to [the] point where organs were about to start to die,” the doctor said.

The medical team hooked Garth up to an artificial lung, which basically does what a normal lung does—bring in oxygen and take away carbon dioxide.

“As soon as we put him on, his oxygen levels went to 100 percent,” Dr. Garcia said.

Garth was connected to the machine for a week-- during which he regained consciousness—an extremely rare feat.

“I think what really helped Garth was [the] fact that he was in such good shape,” he said.

Now a month later, he continues to recover at a remarkable speed. He says he's humbled that everything seemed to fall right into place to save his life.

“Changing my flight to come back early…the docs at AA taking the risk to transport me,” Garth said, adding “all these little things definitely factored in to saving my life.”

Garth now says he is “treating life as a gift from God.”