ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — A team of more than 16 clinicians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis are reflecting on one of the most miraculous recoveries from COVID-19 they’ve seen during the pandemic.
Their patient, 28-year-old Monique Jones, was 26-weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital on September 4, after not feeling well and struggling to breathe. Shortly after arriving, her condition began to worsen, forcing doctors to intubate her. Her pregnancy complicated matters, including preventing doctors from rotating Jones in her bed initially to try to help rest her lungs.
Caitlyn Obrock, a nurse working in a cardiothoracic COVID-19 ICU, was one of the many nurses that looked after Jones throughout her hospital stay.
“It’s easy to get down but I think it really does influence a patient, their outcome that is,” she said. “They have to fight just as hard emotionally as they do physically so I do think it’s a huge part of how well a patient does or does not do.”
Obrock would often whisper into Jones’ ear, encouraging her to continue the fight.
“If I were that patient in bed, and there is a small chance she could hear me, I’d want some reassurance, to hear a voice, to have someone hold my hand just to know someone is there, we’re fighting for her and she should keep fighting,” Obrock said.
After being intubated, doctors noticed Jones’ condition continued to get worse. The decision was made to place her on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO, according to Dr. Muhammad Faraz Masood, the Director of the ECMO Program at BJC. ECMO is a therapy that adds oxygen to a patient’s blood and pumps it through the body like the heart. In doing so, it allows the heart and lungs to rest so they can heal.
With a normal flu, most patients will spend around 2 weeks on an ECMO machine before their organs are able to recover. However, doctors are finding the recovery time with COVID-19 is much longer.
“We were noticing that this rest may take 3 to 8 weeks sometimes for some organs to recover,” said Dr. Masood.
Dr. Masood and Dr. Akinobu Itoh, both cardiothoracic surgeons, said the decision to place Jones on ECMO was a “no-brainer.”
“If she hadn’t been put on ECMO, she would have had hours left,” said Dr. Masood.
After placing her on ECMO, doctors were then tasked with closely monitoring both the baby and Jones, with no previous cases to research outcomes or options.
“We do not have, back then or even now, any data or previous reliable information to follow,” said Dr. Itoh. “So that was our big challenge.”
Meanwhile, Obrock was helping to provide emotional support to Jones and her family, who were unable to be with her due to COVID-19.
“We didn’t think she was going to make it a lot of days,” she said. “Obviously we had to hold out hope because why else do we do all the things we do?”
A team of more than a dozen doctors from multiple disciplines met daily to discuss Jones’ treatment plan and decide the best course of action to keep her and her baby alive.
“The clinical challenge is that baby, and baby in uterus in mom, may not have that much time because every day there could be a potential issue that comes up that could threaten baby or mom’s life and immediately you have two lives in danger, not one,” said Dr. Masood.
At 29 weeks, doctors decided to deliver Jones’ baby, after her condition was not improving. A total of 16 clinicians were in the delivery room, covering every aspect of care.
After delivering her baby, doctors said her lung function began rapidly improving and Jones was taken off of ECMO a few days later. About 10 days after delivery, Jones was removed from the ventilator.
“Patients don’t…that are as critically ill as her don’t return to the life they had prior,” said Obrock. Monique is returning to life she had prior which is amazing.”
After Jones and her baby were stable, Obrock decided to throw a baby shower for the new mom. She put out a call for donations on social media and was able to throw Jones a baby shower while she was recovering in rehab.
Shortly after, Jones named Obrock godmother of her newborn daughter, Zamyrah.
“I didn’t even think I’d talk to Monique again, let alone develop such a special relationship with her and her family,” she said.
Doctors assigned to Jones’ care said there has not been another case like this one in Missouri throughout the pandemic.
“This is very encouraging for everybody, all of us,” said Dr. Itoh. “Not only the hospital workers but the community as well, that some people can do this well.”
Jones was able to bring baby Zamyrah home in mid-December, less than three months after giving birth.
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