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After 60 Days on ECMO, and Three Months in St. Luke’s Hospital Recovering from COVID-19, 29-year-old Josh Miller Returns Home

After spending nearly three months at St. Luke’s Hospital fighting for his life against COVID-19 complications, Feb. 19 marked a special celebration for Josh Miller. 

It was the day he was healthy enough to go home.

Josh, 29, and his wife, Brittany, moved to St. Louis from Arizona this past November. Within two days of unpacking boxes, Josh was rushed to St. Luke’s emergency department due to symptoms of COVID-19. 

“Essentially, mom and Brittany moved into a house, I moved into a hospital,” Miller told KSDK-TV.

His case of COVID-19 was so severe that within a day of his hospital admission, he was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO is a life-support technology that pumps a patient’s blood out of the body, oxygenates it, then propels it back into the circulation system. 

Jeremy Leidenfrost, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Institute, led Miller’s care, along with Pulmonologist Kristen Fischer, MD, the ECMO perfusionist team and CVICU staff.

“There were several nights where he had bad problems where I didn’t think he was going to make it,” Dr. Leidenfrost told KSDK-TV.

To help boost Miller’s morale, Dave Tenorio, a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer andCOVID-19 survivor, visited Josh. Tenorio was the first person in the St. Louis area to be treated with ECMO for COVID-19 and released home. He was discharged from St. Luke’s in April 2020

"[Tenorio] was able to take some of that hopelessness and to give me hope that my life will go back to normal," Miller told KMOV-TV.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Miller gave special credit to his wife and Dr. Leidenfrost, along with CVICU nurse Dalton Jones, who he said put pressure on a neck wound for four hours straight during one of his scares, and CVICU nurse Craig Snyder, who pushed him and inspired him through physical therapy.

“Dr. Leidenfrost and the nurses saved my life,” Miller told the Post-Dispatch. “They didn’t give up on me, and I think their determination that I would get better is the reason I did.”

“We’d made a decision that he is 29 years old and we’re not going to give up on him,” Dr. Leidenfrost told KTVI-TV.

With his wife, Brittany, mother-in-law, Nina Goldberg, and CVICU staff Craig, Maddie Hlavaty, Jessica Tocco and Jackie Trout by his side, Miller was cheered on by our team members as he made his exit to applause and signs that featured tomatoes. 

Yes, tomatoes.

They hold special meaning for the Millers, inspired by a poem Josh read to Brittany when they were dating. Brittany's “Always Growing Tomatoes” sign was displayed in Josh's room during his stay, and our team members incorporated the theme into his monumental sendoff.
See the full media coverage from the inspiring day:

Same-day appointments with a St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologist are available. Please call 314-205-6801.

Scroll through the social media buzz surrounding Josh’s discharge: