LUBBOCK, Texas– Jonathan Natividad, 37, was discharged from Covenant Health on Wednesday by a standing ovation. Doctors, nurses, and medical staff lined the hallway to wish Natividad farewell after he spent 89 days in their care. Natividad said he had never experienced anything like COVID before.

“Because every time I get sick I always toughen it up and go on with my day maybe take medicine, but this time I just waited too long,” Natividad said.

Natividad tested positive for COVID-19, and fell severely ill within a few days in Lamesa, TX. He was quickly transferred to Covenant where he was placed on an ECMO machine, a lifesaving treatment that only the most critical patients receive. Even with the treatment, it’s not intended to be used long-term. Many ECMO patients are placed on an organ transplant list.

Covenant Health doctors said Natividad was one of the lucky ones. Covenant Health’s Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician Brian Williams, M.D. said Natividad’s case was dire at points and it wasn’t always clear that he’d pull through. Health officials said if it wasn’t for this technology, Natividad likely wouldn’t be here today.

“ECMO is life saving,” Williams said. “And without this type of support or being available in the region, the people that got ECMO would have not otherwise survived without it … It’s for the most critically ill patients.”

Natividad said he didn’t have any pre-existing conditions and rarely got sick before COVID. This led him to hesitate to seek help or care, a decision that almost cost him his life.

ECMO Coordinator Midge Vaughn spent 62 days treating Natividad while he was on ECMO at Covenant. During most of their time spent together, Natividad wasn’t awake or able to fully speak, but Vaughn went out of her way to keep him company.

Them parting ways was the first time she was able to have a full conversation with him, and it brought tears to her eyes. Vaughn said she wouldn’t let him leave without saying goodbye.

“It’s making me shaky, quite frankly, it’s just so exciting. He from the get-go, I would always ask him ‘are you with me? Are you with me?’ And he would always say, yeah, I’m with you,” Vaughn said.  

Natividad has made a remarkable recovery so far, but he isn’t out of the woods yet. He was transferred to a long-term care facility where he’ll continue his long road to recovery.