‘I’ve got to make it,’ NC trooper texts to wife after COVID made it impossible to talk

Hayley Fowler
·3 min read

James Montgomery, better known as Brent, has been in a hospital hooked up to machines managing his oxygen levels and airway pressure for weeks fighting COVID-19, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol and posts from his wife.

Now they’re calling on the community for support.

Montgomery, a state trooper in Vance County, had been at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill with the coronavirus for 12 days as of Monday, Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the state highway patrol, wrote in a Facebook post. He said Montgomery is being treated for pneumonia related to the virus.

McNeill said the trooper is “a true warrior” who has focused “on the fight and not the fright.” He urged people to keep the Montgomery family — including the trooper’s wife Heather and three children — in their thoughts and prayers.

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will and although it may be stormy now, it never rains forever,” McNeill wrote.

Montgomery tested positive for the coronavirus on Feb. 1, CBS 17 reported, but it wasn’t immediately clear how he contracted the virus.

His wife, Heather Johnson Montgomery, has shared regular updates on her Facebook page since taking him to the hospital on Feb. 9. Within a day, medical staff transferred him to the ICU, she said.

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Montgomery’s wife and kids haven’t seen him since he was admitted, though they were able to FaceTime early on, Heather Montgomery told CBS 17. He was put on a biPAP machine, which uses two levels of pressure to assist the lungs with breathing, on Feb. 16 — two days after his 23rd wedding anniversary.

The biPAP masks made it nearly impossible to talk, but Montgomery continued to communicate with his family in text messages.

He thanked people for their prayers and support, and often encouraged them to pray for others in the ICU with him. In one message Heather Montgomery shared on Facebook, he told his wife he’d be home soon.

“Please don’t give up. I’ve got to make it,” he wrote. “I have too much to do for Jesus and my Lord.”

Montgomery was put on a ventilator the next day.

In the weeks since, messages of support and strength, calls for healing and endless prayers have poured in. Heather Montgomery told radio station WIZS she reads them all.

Even UNC-Chapel Hill football coach Mack Brown recorded a message of support.

“Keep fighting man, we need you out there with us next fall,” he said in a 30-second clip Heather Montgomery posted on Facebook. “Thank you for your service and all you do for this state. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you for a full and speedy recovery. Go Heels.”

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In an update early Wednesday, Heather Montgomery said her husband’s most recent COVID-19 test came back positive — meaning Brent Montgomery’s family won’t be able to see him until hospital staff retest him in three days.

Though her “heart is broken,” Heather has said she remains resolute in her faith.

“I have to know that God is in control, and he is going to find a way when I feel like there’s no way,” she told WIZS. “Somehow, God has given me the strength to push through. I don’t want people’s faith to waver.”