'I want her home:' McAllen mom awaiting life-saving COVID-19 treatment unavailable in the Valley

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Hospital resources across the Rio Grande Valley are being stretched thin, and with less than ten ICU beds available in the region, some doctors are transferring patients out of the area, while others wait for life-saving machines not available locally.

Valley resident Veronica Gutierrez says her 21-year-old daughter is fighting for her life at South Texas Health System in McAllen. After giving birth to her son, Gutierrez's daughter fell sick with COVID-19.

"It turned into Covid pneumonia," Gutierrez said. "She's been in there almost a month. Her blood pressure dropped yesterday morning, but they were able to elevate it with medication, but that's a sign that her body is starting to get tired."

Gutierrez says her daughter isn't vaccinated against the virus. She says her daughter's situation is so dire she needs an extracorporeal membrane oxygenated (ECMO) machine to help her breathe better.

"They have the machine at this hospital, but they don't have the trained nurses to use it," Gutierrez said. "We need a doctor or a hospital to accept her, and as soon as she's stable enough, they will fly her out. It's scary, and I want her home."

But even if a patient is lucky enough to get a spot somewhere else, they may be stuck in limbo, according to Dr. Cristel Escalona, division chief for UTRGV's Department of Pediatrics.

Escalona says she had to send a patient to Corpus Christi for treatment without medical transport, adding that her peers in San Antonio face similar issues, even sending some patients out of state for treatment.

In a statement regarding Gutierrez's daughter, the South Texas Health System said that due to the growing need for ECMO service in the Rio Grande Valley, the healthcare system is working on a plan to offer the treatment in the future.

Medical experts across the Valley continue to urge everyone to mask up and get vaccinated against COVID-19 to stop the surge of infections and hospitalizations.


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