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I write to you on behalf of my dear friend Yolian Ayala Ferrer. She is an amazing, young woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, and an inspiration to all around her. She took ill with COVID in September 2021 and quickly worsened to the state of being placed on a ventilator. She was in an induced coma for two months. The doctors said she would not make it, her heart stopped on three separate occasions. Miraculously, she pulled through. After four months in the hospital she was moved from her ICU room directly to her home, despite still surviving on the ventilator, only eating through a feeding tube in her stomach and needing 24 hour care to survive. She was completely dismissed by the hospital, left stranded to fight for medical assistance and rehab services, all while her family and friends had to quickly learn to be the caretakers that she needed 24 hours a day – seven days a week. Going on eight months now, she has not taken a single breath on her own, she has not spoken a word, and she has not eaten a single piece of solid food. She has not felt the sunshine on her face, the warm water from a shower on her skin or been able to hold her child close to her heart. She lives in a bed, in a room, with machines and tubes connected to her to keep her alive. The doctors told her this is her new normal, but we will not allow that to be the truth. COVID changed her life in an unimaginable way. Despite the odds, she is alive, fighting to regain strength in her body and become healthy enough to be placed on the lung transplant list. Without a double lung transplant she will not be taken off the ventilator and will not regain a semi-normal life.
In 2001, 23 year old Yolian Ayala Ferrer emigrated from Venezuela to America. She was motivated to build a fulfilling successful life for herself and her family. She fell in love and married the love of her life, Arnaldo Orriols, February 12, 2012. Together, they set out to build a family. Devastated and weakened by two horrendous miscarriages their miracle baby girl, Ana Valentina, was born premature at eight months on January 12, 2017. This same year Yolian completed all requirements to become a citizen of the United States of America.Moving from another country, building a family, establishing a life as a citizen were not obstacles for Yolian. Sheis a determined woman with a heart of gold and refused to give up on her dreams.
Fueled by the desire to grow her family, Yolian suffered the heartbreaking loss of two more babies from her womb. The last of these miscarriages occurred at the end of May 2021. Perhaps triggered by her preeclampsia condition the impact to her body was detrimental. Her spirit though continued to stay strong; and doing what Yoli does best, she pushed through. She completed the Tony Robbins “Life and Leadership” certification, becoming a Life Coach, to help motivate and inspire others to live their lives to the fullest and never give up their dreams.
By August 2021, while still recovering from the physical effects on her body caused by the miscarriage, Yolian became ill with Bronchitis. Over the next few weeks she went to the hospital three times to be tested for COVID. All three tests were negative. She even went to get vaccinated during this time but was told she could not be vaccinated while sick, despite the negative COVID tests that she had. She was prescribed a series of steroids and antibiotics to help fight the bronchitis; however her breath was getting shallower and her chest heavier. She returned to the hospital for a fourth COVID test. The hospital tried to turn her away but her husband would not let them. He insisted they test her again. This time she tested positive for COVID and she had pneumonia. She was told she was not able to receive the monoclonal antibody treatment because she had been sick for more than ten days. They sent her home. 48 hours later she was admitted to the hospital and her life was forever changed.
September 2, 2021, 43 year old Yolian Ayala Ferrer could hardly breathe. She kissed her four year old daughter Ana goodbye, leaving her in the care of her 79 year old mother. She never expected this would be the last kiss she would give her daughter for months to come. Yolian’s health declined quickly over the next few days. She was alone in the hospital, no one was allowed to be with her. At first she was given an oxygen mask, then quickly that was changed to a BiPAP machine. During these days Yolian’s heart stopped beating on two separate occasions. Her BP reached as low as 20 and her Oxygen as low as 50. Everything happened so quickly, yet the doctors already made it clear they didn’t expect her to survive this.
September 7th she was moved to the ICU and a few days later she was placed on the ventilator. The fear of death, the not knowing what was really happening, being alone, completely isolated from her support system, her anxiety was high and that was not helping her blood pressure or heart rate. The decision was made to place her into an induced coma so she could rest and hopefully start healing.
September 25th was the first day her husband Arnaldo was allowed to go see her. She was still on the ventilator and in a coma, but for the first time in nearly a month he was able to hold her hand and tell her in person to hang on and to fight. This same day 32 friends and family members gathered outside the hospital and held a prayer vigil. Her daughter Ana praying and singing for her mom to heal.
November 1st Yolian was brought out of the coma. Her muscles atrophied, she could not even lift a finger of her own free will. Her memories of this timeframe are foggy. She was hallucinating and confused as to where she was and what was going on. She remembers being shocked when she was told it was almost Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Day was a beautiful day for Yolian, as this was the first time she was blessed to see her daughter Ana since she had entered the hospital in September. Although Yolian could only move one finger at this time, Ana held her hand tightly and with love.
Everyone had hope that Yolian would improve. The COVID was gone, she was awake, but other than that very little changed. The damage to her lungs was irreversible. Her body had no strength. She was unable to move much and needed continuous care through each day. The nurses would keep her fluids going and change her bedding as needed but there was no rehab or assistance from the hospital to regain functionality. Yolian did as much as she could on her own to regain the use of her hands and arms. By the end of December she was able to use her phone to text words. Her hands were shaky and it was a major task to complete, but she didn’t give up and was able to start communicating this way.
Progress had halted in the hospital environment and the doctors began making suggestions to send Yolian home. She was still in ICU, on a ventilator and feeding tube, but the idea of going home sounded very appealing to Yoli. Her husband was briefly trained on the equipment, a short supply of saline, tubes, and other equipment that would be needed was provided and then on January 6th 2023 Yolian was escorted on a gurney in an ambulance to her home. While this was exciting, this was also incredibly risky and scary. Yolian required round the clock care to survive and a sterile environment to remain safe from further illness. The hospital promised a nurse would be stopping in for 30 hours a month, but no one ever came. It was quickly realized the hospital had given up on Yolian and sent her on her way. Her husband would need to figure out how to care for her; how to help her condition improve; how to fight with the insurance and the state for support; how to maintain his job, keep the house, put food on the table and how to obtain the constant flow of supplies needed to keep Yolian alive and healthy.
February 23rd, 2022 Yolian was rushed back to the hospital. She had an infection in her trache. This was the first time a doctor had looked at her since she left the hospital January 6th. During her four day stay she was told she would need the double lung transplant.
Yolian has lost her hair, her independence, her life as she knew it. She has not lost her hope though. Her husband works up to 90 hours a week often several weeks in a row without a day off to maintain the mortgage and continue to put food on the table at home. He spends at least 3-5 hours a week on the phone with the medical distribution centers to restock the constant flow of supplies needed to keep Yolian healthy. He has a garage full of incorrect shipments and has experienced shipping delays and issues that has forced him to reuse equipment that is supposed to be one-time use equipment and changed daily. Many of the items needed to care for Yolian are not covered by insurance: gloves, bed pads, pee-cups, bathing cloths, shower caps, sheets, buttpaste, over the counter medicines like Tylenol or Robitussin which Yolian takes daily. He has diligently worked to maintain Yolian’s Medicaid insurance coverage and recently received their first payment of disability for Yolian. Yolian’s 79 year old mother takes care of her while Arnaldo is working and her now five year old daughter Ana has had to be removed from school to stay home and not risk bringing infection into the house. Every day is an exhausting day of challenges that they all face head on, but they need help. Yolian does not have a voice so I am writing on her behalf to give her a voice and ask the world to rally by her side and help her get the double lung transplant she needs to regain what she can of a life worth living.

Brenda Woodman (Florida)