Joy Medeiros, 62, Recovered From COVID-19 After Being Hospitalized for 41 Days at Parrish Medical Center
By Space Coast Daily // May 14, 2020
“This is a wonderful day,” said George Mikitarian, PMC president and CEO
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Joy Medeiros, 62, who has recovered from coronavirus (COVID-19) after being hospitalized for 41 days — 35 of them on a ventilator — and who at one point received a tracheostomy to enable her to breathe, was today given a celebratory send-off to her California home by her Parrish Medical Center care team and other hospital care partners.
“This is a wonderful day,” said George Mikitarian, PMC president and CEO. “The results of this great lady’s determination to live, coupled with the care our PMC team provided for her, has everyone smiling at what we’re calling our Conquering COVID-19 Celebration.”
Medeiros, visiting her hometown of Titusville to help care for her ailing sister, instead found herself in the hospital for six weeks, fighting against COVID-19 for her life. Medeiros said that during her struggle against the virus, she never lost hope. “I have a lot to live for,” she said.
“This virus is a terrible thing. I’m grateful that I had great doctors, nurses – everyone – here caring for me. I’ve made new friends at PMC I’ll have for the rest of my life, which in many ways, I owe to them.”
Joy arrived in Titusville on March 26, from her home in Santa Maria, California, where she lives with her husband, David, to whom she’s been married for 40 years. Joy was accompanied by her sister, Chris.
Joy was coughing, which escalated into difficulty breathing, and she developed a high fever. On April 2, Chris brought Joy to the PMC Emergency Department, where she was immediately placed in a room with negative airflow and then admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU) where she was placed on a ventilator and underwent a complicated treatment course.
Among the treatment protocols conducted by attending ICU physicians Dr. Frank Dienst and Dr. Aluino Ochoa were two units of convalescent plasma, zinc, vitamin C, and the nationally much-discussed drug combination of Zithromax and plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine).
“We only administer the drug combination in desperate situations, and only after carefully explaining to the patient, or the patient and the family, the what, how, and why, we’re suggesting using the drugs,” said Dr. Dienst. “Joy’s condition was such that it was necessary to give her whatever possible advantage the drugs could provide.”
About three weeks into her ICU stay, Joy’s breathing became so labored that a tracheostomy (a small hole cut into the neck and a small tube inserted) was performed to help her breathe.
“Intubation is a procedure used in cases where breathing is compromised, but long-term ventilation and intubation has its own drawbacks,” said Dr. Ochoa. Joy was having a terribly difficult time. But she kept fighting, and her care team kept fighting with her.”
Dr. Dienst added, “Joy has beaten a disease that kills seven of 10 people on extended ventilator support, and she has shown near-complete recovery. Several times I thought she might well succumb to her illness. Her case was made more difficult because we are dealing with a new disease, one which acts very differently than previous viral illnesses.”
“Many care partners (nurses, respiratory therapists, X-ray and lab technicians, housekeeping, physical therapy, as well as case management, pharmacy, electrocardiogram and electroencephalogram technicians and others) worked together relentlessly to get Joy better,” added Dr. Dienst.
Gradually, Joy’s condition improved. Joy came off the ventilator completely on May 7 and the tracheostomy was removed on May 11. Since then, she has been working with the occupational, respiratory, and physical therapy teams at PMC, regaining her strength and movement after her extended time on the ventilator and in ICU.
“I truly believe Joy survived because those of us treating her were directed by a Divine hand, a hand which we have come to trust and pray for when practicing medicine,” said Dr. Dienst.
Throughout her hospital stay, her husband has kept in close touch with her care team. When her condition improved, she and David chatted daily using PMC’s video visit service (the hospital has a no-visitors policy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Joy said she has no idea how she contracted COVID-19, having not, to her knowledge, been in contact with anyone with the virus.
Imee Perez, RN, ICU clinical coordinator, said “Joy didn’t realize it, but she was, and is, a symbol of hope and perseverance, and everyone at PMC was pulling for her.”
Jennifer Watts, APRN, a member of her ICU care team said, “During weeks on the ventilator it wasn’t certain that she was doing well neurologically. Then, one day, she smiled. We began to celebrate more and more victories, among them breathing on her own, the first time we heard her voice, the first time she saw her husband via FaceTime and could communicate with him, removing the tracheostomy, and taking those first few steps.”
In the near-term, Joy can walk using a walker. However, she rode out of PMC today, as per hospital policy, in a wheelchair. As she did, the care team and PMC care partners lined up to celebrate her recovery. At Joy’s request, the song “Celebration,” by Kool & The Gang, was played as she departed.
“When I said goodbye to Joy, she gave me her business card,” Dr. Ochoa said. “She told me, ‘We sell hand sanitizer and toilet paper.’ She’s a good person to know.”
PMC’s Healing in Motion van transported Joy and her sister safely to the airport to catch their flight out of Orlando to return home to California.
“It wasn’t a wonderful time,” Joy said. “But it was a wonderful outcome, for which I’ll be forever grateful to my 1,300 new friends, the staff of PMC.”
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