MEMPHIS, Tenn. — (WREG) Nurses and doctors have been put to the ultimate test throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working endless hours, sometimes helplessly having to watch people in COVID isolation die alone without their families. It’s clear why we called them ‘healthcare heroes.’

Recently, two nurses and a doctor from Methodist Le Bonheur were honored for their work.

Their work has evolved into much more than just a job. WREG’s Shay Arthur showed us how their life-saving efforts have now turned into lifelong friendships. 

“She made me feel human and not a lot of people do that for you. So thank you. I know I tell you so much,” Susie said.

Hanan McNamee, a nurse at Methodist Germantown and Susie Espinosa are forever connected.

“We just share a bond, you know? Because we went through something, together,” Hanan said.

That something, is Susie, a former patient, almost losing her life.

The mother to three children at the time, went to the hospital in May of 2020, while 26 weeks pregnant. To make matters worse, she had COVID-19.
“One of my last memories was just being wheeled down a hallway,” Susie said.

Dr. Paul Deaton said Susie and her unborn baby, Brandon’s life were in jeopardy. 

“She was the first pregnant patient that we had with COVID-19 and when she came to our ICU she was 26 weeks pregnant at the time and so we had two lives at stake,” Dr. Paul Deaton of Methodist Hospital, Germantown said.

She required constant care.

“We had her on life support and in sort of an induced coma. We had to keep her on her stomach most of her time while she was on the ventilator,” Dr. Deaton said. “24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every minute.”

Nurse Callie Lillard’s team in the NICU was on standby.

“Brandon had a room in our NICU all set up for him for about a month before he was born,” Callie Lillard, a nurse with the NICU team told us. “Because if Susie were to code they might have to do a C-section right there and we would have to rush over and take care of him.”

Thankfully, doctors delivered Brandon through a scheduled C-section. 

Susie was still in a coma, and due to COVID-19 protocols at the time, Brandon’s father, couldn’t be there.

“Normally in a delivery room people are taking pictures and telling them happy birthday and, ‘I’m like, she’s not going to have any pictures.’ It like hit me in that moment,” Nurse Lillard said.  “I’ve got to take my phone out and take video of him and pictures of his weight and all that.”

So, she made photo collages for Susie. About a week later after giving birth, Susie woke up.

“I was paralyzed, I couldn’t move,” Susie said.

Hanan there to help, calming her down through the confusion, the pain and the unknown. 

“That’s something that me and Hanan developed like she knew what I was thinking like before I even asked about my baby she goes, ‘the baby is born, you’re safe, you’re OK,’ ” Susie said.

While Susie recovered and regained her strength in her hospital bed, in a different wing, Callie in the NICU helped document Brandon as a newborn.

Susie was finally released from the hospital some 70 days after she initially entered. 

We first told you about Susie’s miracle recovery in December of 2020, we talked to her while she attended physical therapy. Regaining strength and movement she lost while being on a ventilator. 

Susie, quick to commend the staff, for helping her through the process.

Last month Dr. Deaton, Hanan, and Callie were honored by the Tennessee Hospital Association for the work they did taking care of Susie.

Susie nominated them.

Hanan said she does her best to make sure her patients feel loved like a family member.

Susie’s case touched her.

“Even when she was in the coma I remember being in her room and thinking that I want her to feel through my care that she is loved and that someone wants her to recover and that she’s worthy of that, you know,” Hanan said.

The two created a bond. The nurses taking calls and making visits at all hours.

“She would do my nails, braid my hair, like I would tell her, ‘I feel dirty, I stink.’ She goes, ‘no you don’t but I’ll make sure you don’t feel that way,’ ” Susie said.

The staff who helped take care of Susie even all celebrated together for Brandon’s first birthday.

“And we’ve developed a friendship and that’s been one of the great things that have come out of COVID-19 is our friendship,” Dr. Deaton said. “I think she’s been great for the community too just the way she’s raised the awareness of COVID-19 with the Hispanic community both in social distancing and vaccination.”

Working together, creating relationships going far beyond the care of a hospital room.

“Don’t be afraid of going to the hospital because I feel that was my biggest mistake. Coming to the hospital late,” Susie said. “Don’t be afraid. There are awesome people that are going to take care of you.”