Unvaccinated Florida COVID patient flown to CT for life-saving treatment after reaching out to 169 hospitals


(WTNH) — A Florida COVID-19 patient was brought to Connecticut earlier this month for a life-saving treatment after his family reached out to 169 hospitals without success.

Susan Walker was running out of time. Her husband Robby was lying in a Florida hospital on a ventilator with COVID-19, pneumonia in both lungs.

“My mother-in-law was with me, and my daughter,” she said. “We went back to our hotel room and cried about it of course because we had felt like we had lost the battle.”

In reality, it was far from over.

Fortunately, the mother of six wasn’t about to give up. Robby was in dire need of ECMO treatment. It wasn’t available at the hospital they were at, she told CNN. ECMO allows the blood to bypass the heart and lungs, allowing these organs to rest and heal.

Walker reached out to 169 hospitals without success. CNN ran the interview on social media, where it was seen by Dr. Robert Gallagher, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Trinity Health of New England.

Robby was intubated and placed on a medical flight to Connecticut. Once in Connecticut, Walker began ECMO treatment at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

On Sept. 2, Robby was taken off ECMO. Nothing is guaranteed, but things for Robby and his family are looking up.

Now, he’s been transferred to Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. He said Dr. Gallagher saved his life, while Gaylord is putting it back together.

“The people at St. Francis, the doctors and nurses have all been great. Everyone here at Gaylord has been great. I can’t thank him enough for saving my life,” Robby said. “Dr. Gallagher took a chance on me.”

Gallagher believes St. Francis, Hartford Health, and Yale are the only three Connecticut hospitals that offer ECMO. Today, Dr. Gallagher was asked if he thinks more patients might be flown into St. Francis for ECMO treatment.

“I think we’re somewhat limited in that; we can only really handle five patients max at a time on ECMO. So, we want to make sure we can take care of the needs of the residents of Connecticut first and foremost,” he said.

Robby wasn’t vaccinated. After this, he and Walker are proponents of getting the vaccine.

“I just turned to God,” Walker said. “I know how we got here, but I know that it was definitely divine.”

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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