‘She couldn’t breathe’: Man prays for fiancée in COVID coma


"What's not okay is the selfishness and not thinking about others," said Tyler Birkes

EDITOR’S NOTE: Heather Greeley passed away at Providence St. Vincent early Friday morning. She was 35.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tyler Birkes remembers the night nearly a month ago when his fiancée, Heather Greeley, told him she wasn’t feeling well.

Tyler said they joked that Heather was coming down with COVID-19.

“I laughed at her and said ‘shut up, there’s no way, no way,'” he said.

The couple had been fully vaccinated for months and the thought of getting sick with COVID seemed far-fetched, Tyler said. But 35-year-old 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.

Tyler said her oxygen levels fluctuate wildly and her doctors are concerned that her heart could stop if they dip too low. He said her heart stopped once already but caregivers got it pumping again after performing CPR.

Tyler said he prays for Heather every day and is not giving up hope that she will recover. He said 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.”

Tyler said a lung specialist wants Heather to be put on an ECMO machine. ECMO is a last resort treatment that pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. Many COVID patients have been treated successfully with ECMO.

Providence said they have three ECMO machines, all of which are in use. Heather is on a waiting list.

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