UPDATE (CBS46) — Curtis Jones, 31, has died. Although Jones eventually received access to the ECOM (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, he reportedly died from other complications.
Initial story below
LAGRANGE, Ga. (CBS46) -- A man from LaGrange is in desperate need of life-saving care after contracting COVID-19, but the device that could save him is in short supply.
Curtis Jones’s wife, India, told CBS46 she and her husband have been careful throughout the pandemic: avoiding large crowds and masking up. She said they recently got their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccination, but have yet to receive the second dose.
Still, Curtis caught the virus. Now, he needs a machine that is hard to come by due to a shortage caused by the ongoing pandemic.
“He’s been on a vent for five days now,” India said. “He’s 31, healthy, never been sick and COVID pneumonia has really devoured his lungs.”
Curtis was hospitalized with COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago. India said her husband doesn’t have organ failure. His bloodwork looks good. However, his lungs are severely damaged.
“This ECMO could absolutely be a matter of life and death because his lungs have to have a chance to heal,” she said.
ECMO is a method of oxygenating a patient’s blood outside the body, then pumping it back in. The problem is many of the machines aren’t available in Georgia due to the pandemic, according to the Georgia Hospital Association. Hospitals are also experiencing staffing shortages and ICU bed-use is at an all-time high.
“We’ve transformed our den into a call center, and we’ve been calling hundreds of hospitals all around the South,” India said. “The South has just really been eaten up with COVID.”
Despite the challenges Curtis is facing because of the virus, India said she still believes in the vaccines.
India is now leaning on her faith and praying her husband finds the lifesaving care he needs.
“It’s like we said in our wedding vows, it’s in sickness and in health. So, I’m going to fight for him,” she said.
ECMO is the highest level of life support. Before the pandemic, the technique was more often used for organ transplant candidates.
India is looking for an ECMO facility for Curtis. If you can help, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or message him on Facebook or Twitter: @ZacOnTV.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story, the family we spoke to incorrectly indicated the patient was fully-vaccinated. We have since learned from the family he had only received the first of two vaccines. It has been corrected.