Antelope Intro: Jennifer McMorrow
Antelope Intros is a recurring GCU Today feature that introduces some of our new employees to the people around them in a way that is fun and informative. Employees are eligible to be featured in the month following their orientation. This week we’re doing something different: Because Jennifer McMorrow’s story is so extraordinary, we’re changing the format slightly to allow her to share all the details, and we’re giving her center stage.
Job title: Enrollment counselor
Job location: Peoria
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know:
I was in a coma and on life support for six weeks earlier this year, in the intensive care unit for eight weeks and in physical rehabilitation for three weeks. The doctors told my parents every day that I was going to die. BUT I’M HERE!
Here’s what happened:
On Feb. 7, I went to urgent care for a cough. The doctor immediately called for an ambulance to take me to the nearest hospital, where I was admitted. Initially, a CT scan showed severe influenza pneumonia. I was hypoxic and required supplemental oxygen.
My hypoxemia progressively worsened to respiratory failure. I was intubated, sedated, paralyzed and subsequently helicoptered to Banner Good Samaritan Hospital on Feb. 15 for a higher level of care. A day later, I was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which provides cardiac and respiratory support to patients whose heart and lungs no longer can function normally.
As soon as I was placed on ECMO, my hemoglobin and platelet counts trended down because of oral bleeding. Between Feb. 17 and March 6 I received 10 transfusions of packed red blood cells, platelets and fresh frozen plasma. ECMO was discontinued on March 6, but I was still on a ventilator.
I woke up on my own on March 14 — the same morning they were going to do a tracheostomy, in which a tube would have been inserted into my windpipe. The doctors had tried several times to wake me, but they were not successful.
I remember my mom being next to my bed when I opened my eyes. She said I tried to get up and hug her. Even though I could barely whisper, she had me call my children, my dad and my sisters. There were a lot of tears. She also said the doctors and nurses that were “my team” all came to see me, and many of them cried.
I don’t remember anything that happened in the month before the coma or any of March after I woke up. Everything I know comes from my family and my physicians. As far as having any memories of while I was in the coma, I can vaguely recall hearing my mom praying over me and my dad singing to me.
Based on what I have been told, there were several occasions while I was in the coma and on life support when I would start mouthing words despite the vent in my mouth. Supposedly, I was having conversations with my brother, who passed away in 1993, and my sister, who passed in 2003. This was frightening for my family because of what the doctors were telling them about my chances of surviving. They assumed my siblings were there to take me to heaven. Turns out, they were there to comfort and watch over me.
On March 19, my primary diagnoses still were pneumonia, ventilator-dependent respiratory failure, oral bleeding and a persistent fever. Two days later, I was transferred to rehabilitation because of severe deconditioning from prolonged hospitalization, functional decline and delirium.
On April 2, I was discharged from rehab to my home but continued to require oxygen because I had trouble doing any type of activity. In addition, my resting heart rate was between 100 and 145, which is extremely high. A pulmonary function test a few days later showed I had less than 50 percent lung capacity and, according to my pulmonologist, that never will improve. According to my cardiologist, my resting heart rate never will get better, either.
By May 6, the hair on my head was 80 percent gone after falling out over a two-week period. I was completely bald before the end of May and now wear a wig. I was advised this was because of the tremendous stress on my body while I was hospitalized.
God has given me a second chance and, despite my “disabilities,” I feel blessed and highly favored. I now have an attitude of gratitude with each day I wake — I’m able to breathe on my own, am no longer confined to a wheelchair and am working again.
What attracted you to GCU? After coming home from the hospital and going through all those weeks of physical therapy, I decided it was time for me to go back to work. I logged into my LinkedIn page and there was an advertisement for GCU, a private Christian university that helps people find their purpose. I believe the advertisement was God’s way of whispering in my ear.
What do you do for fun and where do you find that outlet? I have the most fun when I am with my two sons, 14 and 10. We have Wii bowling tournaments and concerts with Guitar Hero, or we simply cuddle on the couch watching any and every Marvel comic movie.
What are you passionate about? Being the best version of me. The best mom. The best role model. The best friend. The best employee. I believe I was created in the image of God, and I strive to live up to that honor daily.
What are your favorite places or events in the Valley that you like to visit? Football, baseball and hockey games. My sons and I love watching live sporting events, especially if local teams are playing our home teams from New York.
What are you most proud of? My wonderful sons, Patrick and Andrew. They have been through many struggles, including almost losing their mother, but they are strong, kind-hearted, straight-A children. I am truly blessed!
In summary: Before my illness, I lived my life knowing Christ as my Lord and Savior and modeled Christian values. Since my illness, I know that God has a purpose for me. I know that He prepared and called me to that purpose — my coma was Him whispering in my ear. I believe He brought me to GCU to serve. I do not consider my role as an enrollment counselor work. It’s a calling. I am meant to be here serving our students and helping them find their purpose. And if reading this can help even one person, then sharing it will have been worth it.