Patient Story

Jaclyn’s story: Defying the odds


Jaclyn Bolia’s journey with COVID-19 was unlike anything she could have ever imagined. It started on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life — Sept. 4, 2021, the day her son was born via emergency C-section at 33 weeks due to severe preeclampsia. 

Bolia_1st babyJaclyn’s joy quickly turned to fear when she tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after delivering her son, despite her testing negative beforehand. She only got to hold her bundle of joy three times before falling ill. 

Jaclyn rushed to Northside Hospital Atlanta for a monoclonal infusion, where her condition deteriorated rapidly. Her blood oxygen levels plummeted, and she was admitted to the emergency room. She would go on to spend two weeks in the COVID ICU, isolated from her newborn and family — only communicating with them via FaceTime. 

“Eventually, my condition worsened to the point where I had to be put on a ventilator,” Jaclyn said. “That same night, I went into cardiac arrest twice. My family prepared for the worst, but then hope arrived in the form of ECMO and the incredible team led by Charlie Nix.” 

ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) is a state-of-the-art life-saving technology, which gives full lung and heart support to critically ill patients. 

Bolia_with sisterJaclyn says that she doesn’t remember much from those early days, but she does recall the 30-plus days she spent on ECMO. She was the first adult patient at Northside to be placed on full heart and lung bypass. 

“There were concerns because at the time they were not sure if any damage was done to my heart due to my multiple cardiac arrests,” Jaclyn said. 

“I wasn't an easy patient; I even had to be restrained at one point,” she added. “But through it all, Gil and Jennifer, my dedicated caregivers, never gave up on me. They went beyond the call of duty, bringing cards for poker and doing everything they could to keep my spirits up.” 

As Jaclyn slowly regained her strength, she noticed the toll her illness had taken on her body. She developed a massive knot in her hair. Dr. Michele Voeltz, another “guardian angel” as Jaclyn calls her, spent hours trying to untangle it. 

“She even purchased supplies out of her own pocket to help me feel human again,” Jaclyn said. 

After coming off ECMO, Jaclyn faced a long road to recovery in rehab. There were doubts about brain damage and the potential need for a lung transplant or lifelong oxygen dependence. Jaclyn miraculously defied the odds. She regained 80% of her lung function — and she now has the privilege of enjoying life with her two sons and family, cherishing every moment that she missed with her firstborn. 

“I owe my life to the incredible team of health care professionals who fought tirelessly to save me. They didn't just save my life; they gave me the chance to embrace this beautiful life with gratitude overflowing from every fiber of my being.” 

Learn more about the Northside Hospital Heart Institute.


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