Memorial Satilla Health - January 01, 2021

COVID–19 would take Lisa Martin to the edge of death. And then a miracle occurred. Her amazing journey includes 59 days on a ventilator, a tracheotomy, 40 days in an induced coma and surviving a frontal lobe stroke. As part of her recovery, she had to relearn how to speak, eat and walk.

Lisa had received a negative result on a rapid COVID-19 test, but she had no doubt that she had the dreaded disease. Her husband, Jeff, had already tested positive, but was doing pretty good on antibiotics. But on Sept. 27, Lisa was running a fever and breathing was painful. A physician and family friend advised her to get emergency care right away.

When Lisa went to the Memorial Satilla Health ER, she had no idea she would not be going home for three months. She had no known underlying health issues and she was in her 40s.

Jeff couldn’t join her in the ER, but Dr. Alan Morton was her physician and her nurses were Paige Bennett and Hannah Bennett. “They were friends with my daughter. I knew that they loved me and that I was in good hands,” said Lisa.

Lisa wanted to go on the ventilator. She didn’t even realize the significance of that decision; she simply couldn’t breathe. A physician later told her that the vent saved her life. Nurse Hannah would be the one to administer the sedation before Lisa was ventilated.

As days passed, it became apparent that Lisa needed a higher level of care. On several occasions, the hospital tried to move her to another facility, but her numbers crashed. And then her fate became uncertain.

Oct. 20, Lisa was comatose, her eyes fixed. The hospital called in her family to tell her goodbye. They held a family conference. Her youngest son was the last to speak. He said, “We are not pulling that plug. I’m not ready to be without my mama.’ He then reiterated what each family member had said. They decided to give it 11 days before making a decision. That would have been the end of one month on the vent. Earlier in September, Lisa had created a living will with a “do not resuscitate”. 

The family’s goodbyes turned to joy because on the eleventh day, Lisa broke through the sedatives and began tracking Jeff with her eyes and she moved her hand.

On Oct. 24, she was transported by helicopter to our sister facility, Memorial Health in Savannah. Jeff got in the car and started “flying” to Savannah. He was stopped twice by policemen. After hearing his story, the second cop gave him a police escort to the hospital.

Upon arriving in Savannah and consulting with the Intensivist there, Jeff was told, “She’ll never make it with those lungs. She’s going to need a lung transplant to live.” Jeff told the doctor that Lisa’s will indicates that no such measure can be taken and so the physician said, “We will do what we can.” Jeff replied, “You do what you can do, and we’ll ask God to do the rest!” 

Occasionally, we believe that heaven touches earth in moments like these. Many healthcare workers and the Martin family have noted the miraculous recovery that Lisa has experienced. “I believe that we can treat a patient medically and surgically, but it is God who does the healing,” Jeff has stated.

He also pointed out that they are also very thankful to every healthcare worker who touched their family along the way – “from janitorial to cafeteria to aides to administration to nurses and doctors.”

Lisa was later transferred to another hospital for acute medical care and the additional rehabilitation she needed. She had lost the ability to use her arms and legs and she couldn’t talk, but that would all change.

From the beginning, Jeff chronicled Lisa’s story on Facebook and hundreds of people have followed his posts. He requested prayers often and folks were happy to deliver. When Lisa regained consciousness, Jeff told her he would buy her whatever she wanted, including the beach house she’d always wanted.

An animal lover, Lisa asked for a bloodhound puppy – a pet she knew Jeff would love as well. That’s how Birdie became part of the family. Birdie is short for Bernice Matisse, a character in the movie, Hope Floats, “for which we can all give witness”, says Jeff. On Dec. 14, Lisa was transferred to Memorial Satilla Rehabilitation for her steps and rehabilitation before going home.  On Dec. 21, Lisa and Jeff celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary at “Chateau de Rehab”.

The miraculous journey had a very exciting chapter on New Year’s Eve when Lisa was finally able to leave rehab and go home. It was an appropriate ending for 2020 for the Martin family and the  Memorial Satilla/HCA Healthcare team - a reminder of hope.