UPDATE: Winter Park dad needing heart, lung, kidney transplant following COVID-19 dies, family says

WINTER PARK, Fla. — UPDATE: Sammy Sakelariou, the Winter Park father needing a heart, lung and kidney transplant after landing in the hospital with COVID-19, his family said.

“God has gained a great angel! We were blessed to have Sammy in our lives,” his family wrote on Sakalariou’s GoFundMe page last Wednesday. “He was a great father, husband, son and friend. His infectious laugh and personality touched everyone that he came in contact with. His memories will last forever within his children. We are heartbroken but know that he is in the best place; with God in heaven! Thank you for the out pour of love, support and prayers. We are so grateful!”

Read more here.

See our previous story below:

Sammy Sakelariou is aware of what’s going on, but living without lungs and hooked up to a heart-lung machine, his wife Shariena calls him a medical miracle.


“We have five children, he loves being a dad,” she said.

Last July, COVID-19 cases were surging with the delta variant. Just four days after their youngest, Cole, was born, The father of five from Winter Park landed in the hospital.

“He was just really healthy, had no other issues,” Shariena Sakelariou said.

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Sammy Sakelariou was in a medically induced coma for weeks, brought on by COVID-19. When he woke, life wasn’t the same.

“(He) had to relearn how to eat, he had to relearn how to brush (his) teeth,” his wife said.

Doctors said he may never walk again, but Sammy defied the odd and did.

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But when a hole developed in his lungs, he needed a transplant that took him from AdventHealth to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Shariena said her husband’s surgery was successful, but then blood clotting created more issues, resulting in his new lungs and heart being damaged.

“I asked him, ‘Do you want to go through this? You’re going to need another transplant?’ And he said, “I want to get home to my babies.’ That’s all he keeps on saying.”

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To make that happen, Sammy needs another miracle. He’s already living without lungs. He needs a heart, lung and kidney transplant, and a specialized doctor who can do the heart and lungs at the same time.

Shariena is praying they get that miracle for her high-school sweetheart.

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Sammy has never been able to have photos taken with his youngest son. They’re hoping a medical facility or team of surgeons will hear about his story and step in to take on his case.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with medical costs. Click here to donate.

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.