Since my mom contracted COVID-19, words can not describe the gut-clenching and heartbreak my family has endured within the past two months. It happened so quickly, too, and like a sucker punch to the face followed by a massive sting!
During the last week of June, my mom felt sick, so my sister took her to get tested for COVID. That evening the doctor's office called back and reported she was positive for COVID. She told my sister she was well enough to stay at home.
However, as the night wore, her body began to ache. She called my sister in the morning, and my sister drove my mom to a hospital in Seattle, WA. Upon arrival, it was apparent to my sister and the admitting medical staff she was not getting enough oxygen. An oxygen meter was placed on her, and it indicated she was only getting 67% of oxygen.
Within minutes, paramedics from a nearby hospital arrived. They were called because their hospital was equipped with life-sustaining equipment. My mom was quickly placed on a gurney and wheeled away with an oxygen mask placed over her nose. That would be the last time I saw my mom coherent as I yelled, "I love you, Mom!" via a Face-Time call.
Immediately and upon arrival at Swedish Hospital, the doctor intubated her in the ICU. She was also placed on heavily sedating medication to keep her comfortable with the tube placed in her mouth and running down her throat.
There are 5 of us siblings. We quickly became aware we were not going to be with her. The hospital would not let anyone in to see her because of the risk of contracting the virus. We quickly decided we would phone conference with the hospital doctor and nurses two times a day and video conference in lui of being with her physically.
During the first week, I hoped she was going to pull through. Her oxygen levels were near the mid-'70s, and her skin color looked good. The second week, it started feeling like a roller coaster ride. My mom's oxygen levels were up and down. My mom was 81-years old but very healthy and active.
Before this, she was working part-time landscaping and house cleaning. Her diet was very healthy too. I felt she would overcome this and tells us a story about how she kicked COVID's ass!
In the next few weeks, doctors had provided my mom with two medical trials known to combat COVID. Unfortunately, her body did not respond, and her lungs began to harden and become filled with fluid. She was flipped on to her stomach and then to her back. She seemed to get more oxygen when she remained on her stomach.
Over the past few weeks, she mostly remained on her stomach and spent less time on her back. We noticed her face and limbs started to swell due to the fluids and positioned on her stomach. We asked that the doctor give her a 3rd treatment with convalescent plasma. This plasma treatment takes plasma from a recovering COVID patient and injects it into another struggling COVID patient. The anti-bodies then fight off the infection in the sick patient.
Unfortunately, none of the three treatments used helped. Nearing the 4th week of being hospitalized, my mom's ability to breathe diminished, and the oxygen from life support increased. Doctors told us the chances of her recovering and living a good quality of life was nearly non-existent.
I was told by two doctors that the average amount of time a COVID patient survives in the ICU is one week. The fact my mom was still fighting to breathe after four weeks was rare, and it appeared to the doctors to be consistent with how we described our mom as being full of life, healthy and active before the virus.
On July 31st, my mom passed away, and On August 29th, we held a small gathering of family members to remember her. We all wore masks and socially distanced. Family members told stories of my mom's childhood and her life growing up in the Philippines. As a young child, she faced unthinkable hardships. She and her siblings became orphans by the time she as 11 yrs-old. She was the third oldest of a total of seven siblings. Later in her life, she came to the US and raised five children.
The truth is, my mom was a fighter all her life. I thought she would be able to fight this virus off as she did with other difficult struggles. I was not ready for this. I did not want to lose her. I was not able to be with her in the hospital and hear her comforting voice. There is so much I wanted to say and share with her.
This virus is real, and it is deadly. Please be safe. Wear a mask and social distance. It may save your life or someone you deeply care about like your mom.