I was living my best life
In 2020, at 41 years old, I was living my best single life. I had traveled to Spain to celebrate my 40th birthday, I was practicing yoga poses in Costa Rica, and relaxing in hot water springs in Iceland. Back at home I was enjoying new restaurants, attending happy hours with friends, and taking advantage of what Washington, DC had to offer! I was also committed to my mental and physical health, practicing yoga and attending SOLDIERFIT, a bootcamp-style gym weekly.
From active and healthy to barely surviving
In late October, I started to feel sick, but after 2 negative PCR tests for COVID-19, I was diagnosed with a virus, and a urinary tract infection. I isolated and kept feeling worse. After a trip to urgent care and then the ER, I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and double pneumonia. After 1 night in the local ICU and 2 days at a rehabilitation facility, I was sent home. Two days later, I was rushed to the ICU with an oxygen level of 40%. I spent 12 days in that ICU and was placed on BiPAP, an alternative to a ventilator.
Memories of a life I never lived
On the night of November 13, I was intubated, sedated and rushed to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. My medical team placed me on a ventilator and ECMO, a form of life support. I didn’t wake up until February 2021, only to find out I had been on ECMO for 69 days and in the ICU for more than 4 months. My family had been told many times to prepare to lose me. My sister had written my eulogy. I overcame several infections, a blood clot, three blood transfusions, multiple lung collapses, and severe sedation drug withdrawal. I was the first ECMO/tracheostomy patient to be placed in a prone position for treatment at Johns Hopkins, and I survived the hospital's longest ECMO run. I returned home on March 4 after 2 weeks of acute rehab, relearning to do even the simplest tasks.
The Ultimate Test in Surrender
As I have always done, I faced these new challenges with humor and learned to surrender to where I was. I have always been independent, so accepting my limitations and asking for help has been a struggle. My friends call me “Mariacle” because I overcame what others did not. My lungs have almost fully recovered, with capacity in a normal range. I still struggle with fatigue, muscle weakness, and a nerve compression in my arm. I wear my scars as reminders of the war my body fought. More than a long hauler, I’m a survivor.
While I will always be grateful for my recovery, our family did not go without loss. A week after I was released from the hospital, we lost our dear Cousin Martha to COVID-19 in Ecuador. She was the most amazing crafter and keeper of family secrets. She will forever be missed. She is one of my angels.