Unfortunately, I do. Our Rochester, MI, team member Julianna and her fiancé Avery had a very serious experience with COVID.
Avery is an EMT, so they expected him to eventually catch the virus during his front-line work. But as a healthy 37-year-old with no underlying medical conditions, they assumed he was not considered “high risk”.
Avery did indeed contract COVID in late March. His symptoms progressed quickly and severely:
- Week 1: Avery developed a rash, then loss of vision in one eye, followed by shortness of breath and lost sense of smell.
- Week 2: Julianna also began to experience COVID symptoms while her fiancée’s condition worsened. Avery was hospitalized with a blood oxygen saturation of 83% (it should be 98%).
- Week 3: Avery was placed in a medically induced coma and put on a ventilator. His condition was not improving.
- Week 4: Julianna, while still extremely sick herself and unable to visit the hospital, advocated for Avery to be put on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which essentially does the work of the heart and lungs when the body cannot oxygenate blood on its own. ECMO machine parts are in short supply, and the patient must be put on the ECMO within 7 days of the ventilator for the treatment to work. Avery was put on the ECMO on day 6. The process itself is horrific, as a tube must be placed through the jugular vein in the neck and threaded through the aorta into the heart.
- Weeks 4-7: Avery was on the ventilator, ECMO, central line, feeding tube, and additional IVs - physically paralyzed, but not fully unconscious, although the doctors were giving him more than the safe limit of sedation medication. He was in a constant state of physiological fight-or-flight, causing his heart rate to skyrocket and his oxygen saturation to plummet over and over. He experienced night terrors where he feared for his life but was unable to move. From what Julianna could deduce from her own research and discussions with the nurses, Avery was NOT on a positive trajectory.
- Weeks 7-8: One doctor decided to try an untested drug combination, and Avery was finally stabilized to a point where he could open his eyes. In the following days, he regained a small amount of motor and respiratory functions.
- Week 9: Julianna was able to visit her fiancée for the first time since he was hospitalized. He was discharged 3 weeks later.
Although nowhere near fully recovered, Julianna and Avery decided to finally set a date for their wedding. They were married June 26, 3 months after their COVID battle began, at the Beaumont Royal Oak Hospital as a tribute to the medical team that saved their lives. One of the nurses was their best man. The story was covered by local news station WDTV.
I want to thank Julianna and Avery for letting me share their very personal and terrifying story with the Commtrex community. They hope their story helps “encourage people to realize that anyone can get it, and there’s no way to predict if you’ll live or die from it. Statistically, younger people are in less danger, but statistics are cold comfort when you’ve got to brace yourself to ask your fiancé’s father if he wants his son buried next to his son’s mother.”