Once upon a time, I was a normal, fairly healthy mom, wife and daughter, just living life and enjoying my time here on this earth. Never, in a million years, did I imagine that at 29 years old I would be considered a “miracle”.
After days of struggling with coordination, memory loss, confusion and hallucinations, my husband took me to the nearest emergency room where, to everyone’s surprise, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. Regardless of my symptoms, I was sent home and told to rest. Two days later, I was in the emergency room again, struggling to breathe and again, I was sent home this time with a pulse oximeter to monitor my oxygen levels. I knew my body was fighting something fierce, not even 12 hours later we made that dreaded 911 call after my oxygen dropped into the low 50s and I continued to float in and out of consciousness. I remember watching my husband and daughter fade away as we drove off. Scared that it would be the last time I ever see them.
After being admitted I spent that night and the following day in the ICU. After struggling to keep myself on a bi-pap machine, the doctor came in and told me if I couldn’t keep the bi-pap mask on, he would have to intubate me. With no family by my side, with no phone call to say goodbye, I looked right at him and gave him permission to place me on life support, somehow knowing that I was not going to let Covid win.
For 10 days, I remained on life support and my family watched as my health declined and I was given less than a 20 percent chance of surviving. Not only did I have Covid but I had also developed double pneumonia. 8 days in, they attempted to reduce the ventilator and exhausted body did not respond at all, the machines were 100 percent breathing for me. The doctor made the phone call to my husband informing him that “I was too sick and there was nothing more they could do for me”. Something no one ever wants to hear about their loved one.
Two days later, I came out of my medically induced coma, extubated myself and was breathing 94 percent on my own. I remember sitting there scared and confused as I watched doctor’s, nurses and therapists rush to my side, crying, calling me a true “miracle”. Not realizing how hard it would be to accept myself as a “survivor”.
I always say my family had it the hardest while I was in the ICU because I don’t remember much of anything from those first 11 days. Little did I know the toughest battles were yet to come. I spent days learning how to stand and walk again, months in therapy and on oxygen and went home with a walker that I had to use for almost 8 weeks. I suffered from Post Intensive Care Syndrome, PTSD and severe anxiety. I spent the better part of that first year recovering both physically and mentally.
Since then my body has battled multiple bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia and countless upper respiratory infections. As tired as my body is from fighting against the aftermath of Covid, I knew that I needed to make the most of my second chance at life. I’ve spent the last 18 months trying to help raise awareness as an advocate and have spent time mentoring and speaking to others about my experience. I know that this journey is far from over and I have finally allowed myself to believe that at my core, I AM a survivor.
Rachel Pintrick (Michigan)