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Published on December 22, 2021

COVID-19 Patient Heads Home for Christmas

Bryan Carroll spent 21 days on an advanced life support technology called ECMO.



Bryan Carroll got his Christmas present early. He left The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital with his wife today to go to their Providence, North Carolina home. At the top of his Christmas list was to hug his two daughters, ages 8 and 5, before the holiday. Carroll spent more than a month in Cone Health hospitals with COVID-19. 21 of those days he was on an ECMO machine (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation). It was the last option for his medical team.

The ECMO device is sort of a miniature heart-lung machine that pumps and oxygenates the blood of patients whose organs are failing. It took over the work of Carroll’s COVID-19-ravaged lungs while his body recovered from the virus. Since Cone Health initiated its ECMO program, the ECMO team has saved the lives of three people with severe cases of COVID-19 and were suitable for this technology.

ECMO is typically used to help people recover from certain complex cardio or thoracic surgeries or to keep people alive after major car crashes or other traumas. These devices have been used across the country as a last chance for dying COVID-19 patients.  

Staff from his ICU team and other units involved in his care gathered near the Cone Health Heart & Vascular Center door to cheer Carroll home. The 44-year-old proudly wore UNC’s blue and white. A huge Carolina basketball fan, Carroll received notes and videos from the UNC family during his time at Cone Health.

Carroll was not vaccinated for COVID-19 when he contracted the virus. Many of his family and friends have since been inspired to get the shot. He strongly encourages everyone to be vaccinated. “I’m all for vaccination,” Carroll says. “I’m living proof that your average person can get COVID-19 and almost die from it.”

“We don’t want to see this happen to anybody we know or love,” says Jodie Carroll, Bryan’s wife. “You never think this is going to happen, but it does. We realize we are blessed.”

Carroll said the care he received was exceptional, noting that his care team planned an anniversary dinner for him and his wife on Nov. 16, complete with cupcakes, a happy anniversary banner and a card signed by the care team.

“The team was incredible, the whole ECMO team,” Carroll says. “When I was well enough, they took me outdoors on one nice day to see my girls. They go above and beyond, each one of them.”

“Using ECMO is very intense work for our team,” says Cone Health Cardiologist Dan Bensimhon. “But days like this make it worth it.”

Bryan Carroll with StaffBryan Carroll with Staff
Congratulations BalloonsCongratulatory balloons
Sign saying "Congratulations Bryan
>Nurses greeting Bryan
Bryan posing with staff and signed pillow