NHRMC patient narrowly survives COVID-19, spends 77 days in hospital

Calcasola says he wishes he would have taken the virus more seriously and gotten the vaccine
Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 6:44 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) -Jamie Calcasola doesn’t remember much of his time at NHRMC, but he still carries the scar on his neck from his tracheotomy and the pictures his family took to remember his 77-day battle in the hospital with COVID-19.

Pictures showing things like a priest laying a rosary on his chest while a machine breathed for him, his wife’s hand reaching out of a disposable scrub top to clasp his hand, or snapshots of his three daughters that decorated the side of his plastic hospital bed speak to the gravity of his hospital stay.

Calcasola was vacationing in Orlando in August when he contracted COVID-19. The family is from Texas, but planned to visit his parents in Carolina Beach before returning home.

The young father had no health issues, but he wasn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Days after trying to rest at his parent’s house, he was too weak to get out of bed and couldn’t breathe. His fingers and lips were blue when they rushed him to New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Eventually he got two kinds of pneumonia and he got so ill, he was put in a medically-induced coma and kept alive on an ECMO machine. Calcasola stayed sedated until October.

“If we weren’t here in that timing, in this state, with that hospital, I feel like I would’ve died,” said Calcasola. “Not all hospitals have ECMO machines that are available — they only have a few and they’ve got dozens of COVID patients that are dying.”

Life for his family continued while the machine drove oxygen into his body, allowing his COVID-damaged lungs to heal. While he was on ECMO, his 13-year-old’s birthday passed and his oldest daughters marked their first day of school.

Calcasola says he wishes he would have taken the virus more seriously and gotten the vaccine.

“I was the poster boy for anti-vax and the ignorance towards it all, it’s something I definitely regret because I wouldn’t have had to go through everything that I went through and put my family through,” said Calcasola. “My wife had to sit and watch me go through all this, I got to sleep for most of it but they watched me fight for my life in that bed.”

His wife, Brittany, was at the hospital each day.

“I was definitely upset because I couldn’t — didn’t want to be anywhere else. I wanted to be by his side, knowing how he was doing, what the doctors and nurses were doing that day and if he was getting any better,” said his wife, Brittany Chitty. “It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.”

Doctors gave him a 15 percent chance of survival, but despite the odds, the father of three was given a second chance at life, to be there for his three kids and wife.

“Cherish your family and appreciate your life because life is short and with something like COVID going around, you never know. I’m grateful to be alive and hopefully can have many more years to be with them,” said Calcasola.

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