MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. (AP) — Howard Breidenbach thought it was all a big conspiracy.

The government using a so-called “coronavirus” to control the people. Feeding drama. Making up numbers.

“It was all a lie,” he thought.

Until he forgot his own name.

The 47-year-old independent trucker from Myrtle Creek thumbed his nose at COVID-19. On July 14, something was wrong.

“We thought for sure it was pneumonia,” Breidenbach’s wife of 29 years, Tonja, said Monday. “I didn’t feel very good either. When he got sick, I started feeling sick, too.”


Howard’s condition took a drastic turn. After spending a few days at CHI Mercy Medical Center, he was transferred to the intensive care unit, but there was only so much hospital staff could do for him. He needed specialized help, and he needed it fast.

One doctor called every hospital in the Pacific Northwest trying to find an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine — better known as ECMO — to help serve as an artificial lung for the 47-year-old, whose condition was continuing to deteriorate.

“That was very traumatic, very upsetting,” Tonja said of the phone call she received in late July. “He might actually die.”

No such machines were available in Oregon, but the doctor at Mercy was able…

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