Nurse’s Compassion Gives Former-Marine Battling COVID-19 a New Lease on Life

Alabama nurse Melanie Behel was hoping for a miracle when she made a desperate Facebook post searching for treatment for her nephew, Luke Oliver. Battling a severe case of COVID-19 and desperately needing ECMO, the 30-year-old former Marine was seemingly out of options with no beds or machines available in Alabama to help him.

CHI St. Vincent nurse Jaquelyn Dumas stumbled upon Behel’s plea for help in a Facebook Group for nurses and immediately went to work on a solution. “I took a screenshot of it,” she said. “It was pretty late, so I sent it to Dr. Bauer in the morning first thing.”

After reviewing the case and connecting with his family, CHI St. Vincent cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Thurston Bauer facilitated Oliver’s transfer to CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

“Luke was in rough shape,” said Dr. Bauer. “He needed ECMO, but there weren’t any ECMO beds available in Alabama.”

Just one day after his arrival, Oliver began ECMO treatment and it saved his life. He ended up spending 33 days on the ECMO machine to help him overcome the damage done by the coronavirus.

“His heart stopped on us several times,” Dr. Bauer said. “It has been an emotional roller coaster. The coronavirus had destroyed parts of his lungs so much that air was leaking out of his lung.”

After a grueling treatment process that included nearly four months at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary, Oliver is now cured. He returned to Alabama with a renewed sense of hope and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

“Beautiful people,” he said. “This whole hospital is full of angels.”