A 52-year-old Florida father of six is now recovering after his wife and family reached out to 169 hospitals before finding life-saving care for his serious case of COVID.
Robby Walker's wife Susan told CNN in early August that he was in "dire need" of ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) treatment but "all the beds [in nearby hospitals] are taken up by COVID victims also getting" treated.
She explained that COVID infections "spread like wildfire" among her unvaccinated extended family after a Fourth of July gathering.
By July 25, Robby, who had been hospitalized, consented to being intubated on a ventilator. "He cried and just told me how regretful he was of not getting the shot, and he begged me to go get vaccinated," Susan recalled, sharing that she did get vaccinated afterward.
Susan said that when doctors informed her it was unlikely Robby would survive, she "didn't accept it" and went on a mission to find a hospital that had room for ECMO treatment. In August, she told CNN, "We have searched every hospital from the south of Florida to the north part of Florida," and soon, she and family members had reached out to 169 hospitals to no avail.
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But when Susan shared her plea for the life-saving treatment for her dying husband on CNN, a Connecticut doctor, Dr. Robert Gallagher, saw the broadcast on Facebook and wanted to help.
"I just clicked on it and watched it and ... it was pretty compelling," Gallagher told the outlet.
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While still intubated, Robby was flown on a medical flight from Florida to Connecticut. Susan said of the transport, "It was kind of my Hail Mary because if I would have not taken the chance, they just would have had no choice but to leave him there and have his organs fail one by one."
After 22 days, Robby was removed from ECMO treatment on Sept. 2, CNN reports. He lost nearly 50 lbs. during his hospitalization and has begun physical therapy.
Robby told CNN Thursday that he "couldn't be more proud of" his wife, calling her "my hero" for saving his health. Now, Robby has a strict policy about unvaccinated visitors: "We've talked about putting a sign on the front door: 'If you're not vaccinated, you can't come in. We'll talk on the yard.' "
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