Melissa BarvelsAge: 35
City: Staten Island
State: New York
Hello, my name is Melissa Barvels and in December of 2013 while 26 weeks pregnant I became gravely ill. On December 20, 2013 I was admitted to my local hospital with swine flu and pneumonia. The pneumonia developed into ARDS and my life and the life of my unborn child were in severe jeopardy. With no other options, the hospital reached out to Columbia Presbyterian’s ECMO department. On Christmas Eve 2013, the ECMO team at Columbia agreed I was a candidate. Utilizing their mobile ECMO unit, they headed to Staten Island to hook me up to ECMO and transferred me back to Columbia while critically ill. I was on ECMO for over 2 weeks and I was still not getting better, after taking me off of ECMO the doctors decided to quickly put me back on. They decided to deliver my baby at 28 weeks while I was in a medically induced coma and on ECMO. On January 8, 2014 Scotty was born weighing 2 lbs 10 oz. After they took Scotty out I began to heal, my body had been fighting for his life and could now fight for its own. I was taken off of ECMO on January 13 and finally woke up from the medically induced coma on February 5th, 45 days later and nearly a month after the birth of my son.
To say I’m thankful would be an understatement. How could I not be? Scotty is perfect and I’m almost back to normal. However, being thankful doesn’t take away from the tremendous toll that everything has taken on me physically and mentally. When I woke I had no idea how much time had passed, I didn’t know I was in a different hospital. I had no idea what I went through. All I knew is that I couldn’t talk, walk or do anything. All of these things slowly came back and I went from using a wheelchair, to a walker, to walking on my own. I still suffer from critical illness neuropathy in my foot. It’s painful and I can’t wear normal shoes but I’m dealing with it. I have a necklace of scars and that has to be the most troubling part of everything. I lost a lot of hair and it still hasn’t grown back in spots. It’s been over 2 years and I still don’t feel like I am 100% back to normal, but I’m learning to adjust to a new normal. I have PTSD and speak to a therapist about my feelings.
For 2 years I’ve been working to spread the word about the importance of the flu shot that could have prevented me from becoming ill in the first place and also the importance of the usage of ECMO. Many doctors and hospitals don’t even know this life saving treatment exists. I am so lucky to have been saved by this machine.
I’m here if you have any questions, want to talk or just vent.