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Lifesaving COVID-19 care

Richard Bressler credits Geisinger for his survival.

Richard Bressler of Lock Haven was a healthy 47-year-old when he contracted COVID-19 in March of 2021.

The virus landed Mr. Bressler in Geisinger Medical Center’s intensive care unit with double-lung pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. 

Life support treatment in ICU

During his six weeks at Geisinger, Mr. Bressler was tethered to a life support machine that took over the function of his heart and lungs. The machine, called ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), pumped his blood out, removed carbon dioxide, added oxygen and then returned the blood to his body.

Mr. Bressler, a social worker who helps homeless veterans, says ECMO coordinator/critical care nurse Evan Gajkowski and the team at Geisinger saved his life. They got him well enough to undergo a double-lung transplant at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia that May.

“The only case worse than me is someone who died — and I almost died a couple times,” Mr. Bressler says. “Evan and the staff saved my life. They got me ready for surgery."

Mr. Bressler says he has flashes of memories from his experience on ECMO, but much of it is a blur.

“What I do remember is pain and a lot of delirium and hallucinations. I remember the feeling of drowning, because that's basically what happened. Your lungs fill up with fluid, your chest cavity gets air in it, your lungs collapse multiple times,” he says. “I ended up with six chest tubes in me by the time everything was all said and done.”

Compassion and care for the whole family

Mr. Bressler is grateful not just for how the Geisinger team took care of him, but how they took care of his wife Jamie and their two daughters.

“The staff was very kind to my wife. They knew her very well, became friendly with her, answered her questions. I think one of the things that she said the most about being there was they never led her to feel doubt. They always gave her hope... She always felt like I had a fighting chance because of their encouragement.”

Mr. Bressler says he could tell Geisinger caregivers love what they do and the people they take care of.

“Geisinger gave me a second chance. They gave me the ability to still be a father and a husband. Geisinger gave me my family. It's that simple.”

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