DARBY, Pa. (CBS) — Wednesday saw a special reunion for a patient from Darby who barely survived his battle with COVID-19. It happened with emergency action from the FDA and the medical team at Mercy Catholic Medical Center.
The patient at Mercy Catholic Medical Center was saved after the FDA gave approval for the emergency use of a heart pump for a COVID-19 patient in conjunction with other interventions.
Devan Smith, 42, met the team at Mercy Catholic Medical Center that saved his life.
“They make sure I’m OK, they treat me like I’m their No. 1. I can tell you, they are the best, they are the best,” Smith said.
In May, Smith had an especially bad case of COVID-19 that caused inflammation of the heart in addition to a build-up of fluid in the lungs.
“I’ll never forget the day after Mother’s Day hearing about his case,” Dr. John Finley said.
A standard ventilator wasn’t enough. When Smith’s heart began to fail, doctors at Mercy wanted to use ECMO, an oxygenation machine, in addition to Abiomed’s Impella heart pump.
For that, they needed emergency approval from the FDA.
“Without those devices to support his system, unload his heart and protect him, there’s no way he would be standing with us here today,” Finley said.
The heart pump is typically used for high-risk cardiac patients, not COVID-19, which is why FDA approval was needed.
“It makes you feel pretty amazing, to be a nurse, to be a health care worker and to make a difference at such a trying time,” Kristen Dipasquale, a nurse, said.
For this reunion, masks covered the smiles and faces of joy and gratitude all about the elbow bumps now.
“They are my family,” Smith said. “They are my family. I mean, 24/7 they’re there with me.”
And now the hospital staff will be forever in his heart, having given him a second chance at life.
“I’m like 110% now,” Smith said. “I’m running, I’m walking, I’m just coming from work.”
Smith, who lives in Darby, works at the Amazon Fulfillment Center. He said his first symptom of COVID-19 was pain in his lower back and neck. Four months later, he feels lucky.