COVID-19 patient recovering after spending 46 days on life-saving machine

Georgia News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Craig Churchill is nothing short of a miracle. He was infected with COVID-19 in September. He began to have trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital. His condition took a turn for the worst.

“I got a call saying that he had quit breathing and went into cardiac arrest because there wasn’t enough oxygen to do what his organs needed to keep working,” Lisa Churchill, Craig’s wife, recounted. “It took them six minutes to bring him back.”

Churchill was placed on a ventilator. Based on his health and age, his doctors told his wife he was a candidate for an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which is a last resort option to help a person breathe.

“It allows the lungs to rest,” Dr. Vijay Patel, the Medical Director of Augusta University Health’s ECMO Program, explained. “It takes down the amount of support we have to give them on a ventilator and gives his lungs time to heal. That’s what he needed.”

Churchill was transferred to Augusta University Medical Center, which had an ECMO machine available. Patel says most patients spend between two to three weeks on the machine. Churchill spent 46 days — the longest anyone has ever used the machine at Augusta University Medical Center.

“He had a lot of ups and downs,” Patel said. “There were times when we really thought he wasn’t going to survive. The longer it [ECMO] goes, there’s a risk that the lungs may not recover enough, or other complications can set in.”

On day 46, Churchill began his road to recovery. He transferred to a rehabilitation hospital and will need to see physical, speech and occupational therapists. Churchill hopes to be go home by the end of the month.

“It’s truly remarkable to see them when they turn that corner after such a long period of time,” Patel said.

Churchill’s family can not thank the team at AU Health enough.

“I will never be able to say enough good about them,” Lisa Churchill said. “I don’t know if they’ll ever realize the impact they had on us.”


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