Caregivers and Patient Grateful for Homecoming After Months-Long Battle Against COVID-19
In early September, Breanna Higgins, 35, arrived at Holy Rosary Healthcare with a high fever and huffing for air; her oxygen levels were bottoming out. After receiving a COVID-19 pneumonia diagnosis, she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for a higher level of care.
“I didn’t realize my condition was as severe as it was until the caregivers asked if I’d be willing to be placed on a ventilator if needed,” recalled Higgins. “At that moment, I immediately thought of my 10-year-old daughter. The idea of leaving her at such a young age was unimaginable.”
Unfortunately, Higgins’s condition worsened, and soon it became clear that she needed to be intubated. Before being placed on the ventilator, she visited via a virtual video platform with her daughter and mother.
“Throughout the pandemic, I have worked with a lot of families to help them connect and speak with their loved ones before they needed to be intubated,” explained Tia Seleg, Higgins’ respiratory therapist at Holy Rosary. “It was a very emotional situation because we didn’t know if this would be the last time she’d be able to speak with her daughter.”
Higgins spent a week in the ICU at Holy Rosary before she was flown to Saint Joseph Hospital, a sister SCL Health facility, in Denver, Colorado. She was placed on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) for a month, a machine that oxygenated her blood and worked as her heart and lungs. Her care team at Holy Rosary remained in contact with the physicians at Saint Joseph and received frequent updates on her condition.
“When we found out that she was improving, after spending a month on ECMO, it was such incredible news. It truly is a miracle,“ said Seleg.
After two months in Colorado and with her condition improving, Higgins returned to Montana to continue her treatment closer to home. She was flown to Billings and spent just over a month at the Advanced Care Hospital of Montana being weaned from the ventilator.
“I was so happy to be that much closer to home,” shared Higgins. “I was grateful for visits from family and friends who made the trip over to Billings.”
Christmas week, she received the news she had longed to hear: she was finally well enough to be transferred back to Miles City for her next phase of care and rehabilitation. When she arrived at Holy Rosary, she was met with a tearful reunion.
“My daughter and mother were already there waiting for me,” Higgins recalled. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
After more than four months of hospitalizations and undergoing intensive treatments, Higgins was able to go home in January. This time, cheering caregivers lined the hospital halls to wish her well.
“That was a big moment for us all,” recalled Seleg. “It was so wonderful to see her go home after the battle she’d fought. We have had so much loss during this pandemic, and this was a good story.”
Higgins’ health continues to improve daily through rehabilitation and physical therapy, and she is relieved to be home enjoying all of life’s simple pleasures: like eating food!
As she reflects on her incredible, near-death experience, Higgins shared, “Always make sure you tell your loved ones how you feel because you don’t know when it will be the last time. Live each day as if it is your last.”
“I am alive today thanks to the excellent healthcare I received, encouragement from my loved ones, lots of prayers, and divine intervention. I am beyond grateful.”