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Indiana mom who delivered baby in coma finally meets staff that saved her life

Tammy Cunningham was on an ECMO machine fighting COVID-19 when her son, Calum, was born two years ago.

INDIANAPOLIS — Doctors and nurses don't always get a chance to see patients after they've been discharged from the hospital.

But it happened Friday. A pregnant mom, on life support with COVID-19, needed medical heroes to deliver her baby boy.

When Tammy Cunningham entered the room at IU Health-Methodist Hospital on Friday, she did not remember the people clapping. Many of the people smiling at Tammy and her family helped save her life two years ago.

"COVID took such a toll on all of us. But when it put an otherwise pregnant mom and a baby in danger, it was truly heartbreaking for us," said Dr. Michele Saysana, chief medical officer for IU Health-Methodist Hospital.

On May 3, 2021, Cunningham was seven months pregnant, diagnosed with COVID-19, pneumonia and having trouble breathing. She left work for a local emergency room and then went to IU North. Tammy doesn't remember the ambulance ride that would take her to the hospital.

"The only other thing I remember is when they were starting on the ECMO. I could feel it. I remember screaming and crying because of how horrible it felt," said Cunningham.

Medical staff put Tammy on life support.

"I was put in a coma, on ECMO," said Cunningham. "When I woke up from my coma, I was no longer pregnant. That's when I learned they delivered him. I'm sure they told me before they delivered him, but I do not remember."

Her husband also had COVID-19 at the time.

"I was stuck at home, taking care of the other kids. I had to make decisions over the phone. I couldn't be there. It was just a really hard time for all of us," said Matt Cunningham.

The hospital medical team delivered her baby boy, Calum. But it would be a month before Tammy could meet her son. 

"The nurse put him in my arms and that was the best feeling ever. I started crying and telling him how beautiful he was," she said.

Calum will turn 2 in May. 

"He is actually doing great. He's had RSV. He does have chronic lung disease still, but they hope he can grow out of that," Tammy said.

It has not been easy on Tammy.

"I have some memory problems still. Working on that. I do have PTSD from all the trauma, so I am working on that," she said.

Calum is the couple's first boy. He has four sisters.

"He has a very spunky personality. He's an aggressive little boy. He loves to be aggressive. It's way different than having a girl," Tammy said.

For the staff at IU Health-Methodist and a grateful family, Friday's reunion was beautiful.

"I'm very grateful and thankful and happy. I've been waiting almost two years to meet everybody," Tammy said. "He's our miracle."

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