Fiancee on ECMO wait list dies of COVID


Heather Greeley was 35

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 35-year-old woman at the center of a KOIN 6 News story on Thursday night died early Friday morning, her fiancé Tyler Birkes confirmed.

Tyler said Heather Greeley died early Friday morning at Providence St. Vincent after being treated for COVID-19.

The couple had been fully vaccinated for months and the thought of getting sick with COVID seemed far-fetched, Tyler said. But Heather did indeed contract the virus, then Tyler became sick with it. He said they both felt like they had bad colds for the first week but then Heather started going downhill.

“She had trouble breathing one night, looked at me and said ‘I need to go to the ER’ and I said ‘alright let’s go,'” Tyler recalled.

Tyler said the hospital didn’t admit Heather that night because doctors said she wasn’t sick enough to take up a bed since she wasn’t showing signs of pneumonia.

A couple of days later, Tyler took his fiancée back to the hospital.

“She couldn’t breathe at all and it was really scary,” he said. “I put her in my truck and I was about 100 miles an hour down 217. I got her in there, she was sitting in the wheelchair and they were admitting her and I rubbed her shoulders and I kissed her on the top of her head and told her I loved her and that’s the last time I saw her.”

Tyler said he last spoke to Heather two-and-a-half weeks ago, just before the hospital put her on a ventilator.

“It was really hard for her to talk but I told her ‘I love you very much’ and she was like ‘you know I’m going to be out of her in a couple days, it’s fine,'” he said.

ECMO treatment may have helped Heather, but she was on a waiting list. All three of Providence’s were in use. ECMO is a last resort treatment that pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

He hopes her story will encourage people to think about others.

“I get it, people don’t want to get a vaccination or whatever and that’s their God-given American right. It is plain and simple. What’s not okay is the selfishness and not thinking about others,” said Tyler. “Everybody thinks this disease isn’t real — it’s absolutely real and it’s in-discriminatory, it doesn’t care who you are, and it will choose who it wants to choose. Heather did everything right, she did everything she was supposed to do and is now suffering because people didn’t do their part.”

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