Published on October 01, 2021

Iuka Man Honored as Patient of the Year

Charles and Jessica Stafford

Charles and Jessica Stafford

IUKA, Mississippi—Charles Stafford was recently honored as Patient of the Year by Vapotherm, a medical device company that he credits with helping save his life from COVID-19.

Vapotherm is a New Hampshire-based medical device company that manufactures the only mask free, non-invasive ventilation device on the market. Patients can eat, talk, drink and take their medications while receiving therapy because it is delivered through a lightweight nasal cannula. 

“The great thing about Vapotherm is that it delivers much higher oxygen percentages than a regular oxygen cannula,” says Stephanie Carr, NMMC-Iuka Respiratory Therapy supervisor. “Respiratory therapists are skilled in knowing the oxygen amount needed for each patient to improve their work of breathing.”

Vapotherm honored Stafford, 43, of Iuka because of the lengths it took to save his life. He was recognized Aug. 15 at the national Value in Employees event in New Hampshire, where Vapotherm employees perform charitable acts throughout the week. He attended the event with his wife, Jessica, who is a registered nurse at North Mississippi Medical Center-Iuka, and Kerri Mitchell, an NMMC-Iuka respiratory therapist who helped care for him.

Stafford’s journey started in November when he battled what he thought was a sinus infection. Instead, he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He took over-the-counter remedies in the beginning but within a few days needed home oxygen therapy to help him breathe. “When COVID-19 first came about, I was a skeptic. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Usually when I am sick, I can shake it,” says Stafford, who has no underlying health conditions. “But COVID-19 is real, and it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

“Walking to and from the bathroom was causing extreme shortness of breath,” says his wife, Jessica. “He was seemingly getting worse with each passing night. “I would continue to monitor his oxygen saturation, watching them drop and needing to increase his oxygen.”  At this point they knew he was going to need a higher level of care. 

“I started going downhill quickly,” Stafford says. “Everything we were doing at home wasn’t working. My wife is a registered nurse and she works with COVID-19 patients all the time. She was doing everything she could.” She drove him to the NMMC-Iuka Emergency Department, where he was admitted to the hospital. 

Stafford was one of the first patients in Iuka to receive Vapotherm therapy—if that had not helped him, the next step was BIPAP or intubation with mechanical ventilation.  “Within minutes it brought my oxygen saturation back into the 90s,” he says. “Every day I got a little better. Without it, I don’t think I would be here today. Without it, I know I would’ve had to go to a different hospital.”

The Staffords were thankful Charles was able to get the care he needed at NMMC-Iuka, and he appreciated the opportunity to thank the hospital staff and Vapotherm employees publicly. “Thank you for bringing breath back to me,” he told them. “I knew I was about to die if I didn’t get some kind of help. I’m living still because of the hard work that you do.”

Vapotherm therapy is also available at NMMC-Eupora. For more information about services offered at NMMC-Iuka, visit www.nmhs.net/iuka or call (662) 423-6051.

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