Pregnant COVID patient thanks Memorial Health staff who saved her life


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A former COVID-19 patient who was pregnant during her illness had the opportunity this week to thank the staff at Memorial Health for saving her life.

By the time Jessica McCollough made it to the Savannah hospital, she was positive for COVID, pregnant and having trouble breathing.

Medical staff took her in for an emergency C-section at only 34 weeks.

“I went into a full-blown panic attack. I was like y’all are crazy, I’m not here for a C-section. I’m just being monitored; I’m fine,” McCollough recalled. “And they’re like, ‘No ma’am you’re not.’”

The baby was OK, but McCollough went into respiratory arrest. Her lungs were so ravaged by the virus that even a ventilator couldn’t help.

“The really last resort is to take the blood out of there, run it through a machine that’s going to remove the carbon dioxide and put the oxygen in there for it,” explained Dr. Chad Stouffer, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Memorial Health.

It’s called an ECMO machine.

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here without it. That’s for sure,” McCollough said.

It took 39 days for McCollough to recover, but she did. 

Released on Oct. 22, to much fanfare from hospital staff, McCollough returned Wednesday for an emotional reunion with Stouffer and her Memorial Health care team to say thank you for not giving up on her.

“They’ve gotten new family members,” she told WSAV. “I don’t know if they know it or not, but they mean the world to our family — that’s for sure.”

Stouffer said it takes a highly trained team — like the one at Memorial Health — to run an ECMO machine. 

He also stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.

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