ESPN gift thanks UConn hospital for saving employee with Covid-19

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Grace Merritt

3 min read

Jeff MartindaleJeff Martindale arrived by ambulance at UConn John Dempsey Hospital in March with a 102 fever and trouble breathing. Almost immediately, he was moved into intensive care and put on a ventilator. He was one of the hospital’s first COVID-19 patients.

Doctors and nurses suited up in protective equipment and tended to him round the clock. They turned him onto his stomach to prone him which helps him to oxygenate and closely monitored him. But the 47 year old from Farmington continued to deteriorate. He developed double pneumonia, his blood pressure soared, and struggled to breathe.

The situation became so dire that his wife, Chandra, home fighting COVID-19 herself, wrote out wills for them in case they both didn’t make it.

Then after two weeks on a ventilator there came a turning point. Martindale got to hear his wife’s voice. He couldn’t have any visitors, but the nurses on the floor found a way to connect him to her. They held a cell phone up to his ear and put her on speaker phone from home. At their suggestion, she spoke soft words of prayer, meditation, and encouragement.

“By the next day I was breathing better, my fever was getting better, my blood pressure was going down,” Martindale said. “The hospital was great in both a physical and an emotional way. They saved my life.

Martindale was particularly moved by the profound bravery of the nurses who readily stepped forward when asked to treat the hospital’s first COVID patient, especially at a time when so little was known about the deadly virus.

“That’s like being a volunteer fireman and someone saying, ‘Hey there’s a burning building over there, do you mind running in and helping people?’ and them saying ‘Yeah, I’m in,’” he said. “I can’t say enough nice things, kind things, good things about the work ethic, the mentality, and the care for others. They not only got the job done but they care about people.”

Martindale, an affiliate relations director at ESPN Radio, is incredibly grateful. So is his employer, which donated to the Intensive Care Unit to thank them for their incredible work.

ESPN announced the donation on live radio during their flagship morning show, “Golic and Wingo.” They interviewed Martindale on the phone as part of a series they were doing to highlight hometown heroes during the pandemic. During the show, radio hosts also interviewed ICU Nurse Manager Patricia Hurley and surprised her with the donation.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Hurley said. “We shed a lot of tears when Jeff got off the respirator. We shed a lot of sad tears, but these were happy tears. We were just thrilled that he was doing so well.”

Devon McGowan, senior marketing manager at ESPN Radio, said the company was eager to support the hospital.

“What better way to honor Jeff and his story than to support those who saved Jeff’s life,” she said. “He’s one of our own and we wanted to do what we could to give back. We had heard stories from Jeff’s wife about these incredible nurses and doctors. I can’t even imagine the shifts they were working and what they were dealing with and how scared they must have been. Thank God for UConn John Dempsey Hospital and the ICU.”


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The UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund provides support for the purchase of medical equipment and supplies needed for the treatment of the COVID-19 virus.

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