LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) — Since giving birth to a baby boy in early December, an East Tennessee mother has been fighting for her life and hospitalized with several severe disorders.
Brittnee Johnson, who has been at the University of Tennessee (UT) Medical Center and on machines keeping her alive for three months, is finally showing signs of improvement and recovery.
“She had the flu while being pregnant. We went to the hospital Dec. 2,” Brittnee’s husband, Jeremy Johnson, said. “That’s when we found out that she had bacterial pneumonia.”
She delivered little Brayden two days later. However, Brittnee’s health turned for the worse.
“It went from there. She got viral pneumonia then went septic… We came up here, got hooked up on ECMO,” Jeremy said.
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment is complicated and risky, according to UT ECMO Manager and Nurse Annie Criswell.
“We are pulling blood from the patient. Oxygenating it ventilating it. And giving it back to the patient,” she explained.
Criswell added that if patients are on an ECMO machine, they are facing a life-or-death situation. Brittnee was no exception.
“We try to reserve it for those who are very sick. You’re also on a ventilator. You’re also on a lot of medications to help your blood pressure, to help you stay calm, to give you antibiotics. You have two nurses when you are on these machines,” she said. “ECMO is a roller coaster. You have high moments, and you have lows. And all of our patients see that, and the most recent one definitely did. She had very high moments where she was doing well and low moments where were talking to family saying this might be it.”
At one point in the care, Jeremy said his wife’s chance of surviving appeared to be fading.
“When they told me if they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop, we were going to lose her. I fell to my knees. At that time my church was with me, my pastor and his wife was here. We prayed. We started praying. I asked God to take His hands off me and put them around her,” he said.
According to Jeremy, after that night and after so many prayers, things began to change.
“We came in the next day and there had been a significant change in the way she was bleeding. God’s miracle had started working,” he said.
Jeremy said God’s angels in this miracle were the UT Medical Center nurses like Criswell.
“They never left her side. They never gave up on her. Even when they thought, we thought we were going to lose her, they stood by her the whole time,” he added. “We have no bleeding at this time. We’ve lost ECMO, and she’s still on the ventilator, but she is improving every day. So, a lot of my fear is gone. Now let’s get to work and get her better and get her home.”
Criswell said they give all their patients the best care possible, but this case was special.
“Knowing she had this little baby at home who had not seen his mother, really pushed us to get her to a state where she can see this baby. She and this baby deserve to see each other and need each other… and live their life together,” she said.
Brittnee is still at the UT Medical Center, but after three months, she is doing much better.
The medical bills for the Johnson family are expensive and their church decided to organizer a fundraiser to help the family.
A BBQ lunch was held at at Refuge Church on 2144 Old Highway 95 in Lenoir City from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 12, during which time donations were accepted to help cover medical bills.