Talking to Amelia, you would never believe this bubbly 20-year-old with a healthy glow and a sparkle in her eye, was lying in the Gold Coast University Hospital Intensive Care Unit earlier this year on life support. Her parents had just been told that she may not even reach her 20th birthday, let alone be here to celebrate Christmas.
Amelia recalls waking up from her coma, the ECMO machine supporting her lungs with its large tubes coming from her body, struggling to come to grips with her new reality.
“I kept having panic attacks when I came out of my coma because I wasn’t used to my surroundings, I was just adjusting to everything that was happening,” Amelia said.
Despite going through such a harrowing experience, Amelia says she was uplifted by the ECMO ICU team in her darkest moments.
“I feel like they saved more than just my life, I feel like they saved my humanity in that moment. I could have been so depressed because it was such a sad and overwhelming time, but they made every day better. They genuinely were the best people. My family would say the exact same. Everyone was so good,” said Amelia.
When Amelia signed on as our Christmas Appeal Ambassador, we wanted to give her the chance to say thank you to the staff who saved her life and became her ICU family. As we walked through the ICU, staff in every direction waved and smiled at Amelia, thrilled to see her happy, healthy, and alive.
We made our way to the beautiful light-filled atrium in the ICU. Here patients and families can feel like for a moment they’re not in a hospital. We stood with a small group of staff ranging from ECMO Consultants, ECMO nurses, and physios who all aided Amelia’s survival and recovery. News spread around the ICU that Amelia had arrived, and the group ebbed and flowed as staff popped in and out to say hi and marvel at how well Amelia was doing, despite being on death’s doorstep only months before.
A testament to the bonds made between Amelia and the dedicated ICU team, the atrium filled with laughter and warm conversation, as they reminisced about her time in intensive care, acknowledging that despite it being such a horrific ordeal, there were many great moments too, like 2am Taylor Swift concerts when Amelia couldn’t sleep or the time that Amelia walked on ECMO – an incredible feat!
“For her to wake up and have such mental strength to be getting up and walking around in intensive care on ECMO is a big deal. It’s a massive deal,” said Dr James Winearls, ICU Consultant and Clinical Lead for the ECMO Service.
Amelia’s medical team say that her determination played a huge role in her recovery, and her ability to be awake and alert on ECMO, and moving her body meant instead of being bedridden in the ICU for several months, she could spend her 20th birthday at home and be reunited with her family for Christmas this year.
“It was amazing to see her strength, not just her physical strength but her mental strength, to be able to cope with what she went through and still be smiling,” said Dr Winearls.
Your donation can help reunite patients, just like Amelia, with their families this Christmas. Please donate.