COLORADO SPRINGS — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise here in Colorado and across the country primarily because of the highly contagious delta variant, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated, adding that the vaccine is the best tool to defeat the virus and end the pandemic.
When it comes to getting vaccines or even when you should wear a mask, as UCHealth’s Dr. Michelle Barron senior medical director of infection prevention and control told us in a previous story, (YHF: Assessing your risk to the delta variant) it’s a personal decision that really comes down to weighing your own risks. While the majority of COVID cases involve mild symptoms, it's important to remember that in other severe cases, COVID can be deadly, or even life-altering.
That’s something DeeAnn Weed, a Woodland Park resident and healthcare worker, knows all too well. DeeAnn is a COVID survivor and a long-hauler who is still dealing with the lingering toll of the virus. In sharing her COVID story, DeeAnn says she hopes there is one message everyone will remember: “Just keep going, no matter what, just keep breathing.”
DeeAnn is a proud military veteran. “I came into the Air Force when I was 17 years old; I was an aircraft mechanic,” she said. DeeAnn worked on planes for nine years when she said she realized people with a college degree seemed to be having more fun. She wasn’t sure what field she should go into, and it was her dad who suggested she go to nursing school. DeeAnn thought it was good advice, and earned her degree to become a registered nurse. “Turns out I love my job! It turned out beautifully for me,” she said. DeeAnn graduated from nursing school in 1995 and returned to active duty in the Air Force as a nurse, starting on the floor with basic patient care and eventually working her way to the operating room. “Since 2004 I've worked as an O.R. nurse in orthopedics and sports medicine. Then in 2015, I retired - 20 years as a nurse and 29 years active duty.”
After retiring from the military, DeeAnn continued to work the job she loved in the O.R. part-time as needed for UCHealth. When the second COVID spike hit late in 2020, most non-emergent orthopedic surgeries were put on hold, and DeeAnn wasn't working. She says, “I stopped working about a week before Thanksgiving because of the spike of COVID cases. I was at home, I do a lot of sewing in my ‘She Shed,’ - that's my little happy place. I was making a bunch of Christmas gifts and stuffed animals for my niece's daughter.”
She says she knew COVID was a nasty little virus and stayed at home to avoid it, except when she needed groceries or fabric. “I wore a mask everywhere I went; I have no idea where I got this.”
DeeAnn’s first signs of trouble came in December a week before vaccines became available to healthcare workers. She says, “On December 7th, I went and saw my family practice doctor and that's when he told me I had a blood sugar of 429 - after that I don't remember anything.”
Looking back now, with the help of her husband, Larry, she is able to fill in the gaps. “On December 9th I drove myself to the emergency room here in Woodland Park. I don't know why, I don't remember being sick, but they did a nasal swab and said I was COVID positive and sent me home.”
On December 10th Larry called an ambulance who came to their home. The paramedics checked her and told her that at this point, she was better off recovering at home, on oxygen. But DeeAnn says she continued to get worse. “The next afternoon, my husband called the ambulance again because I was catatonic. I was staring at the floor. I wasn't eating, I wasn't doing anything. That's all I could do was sit here. At that point he turned me up to the highest level of oxygen, and I was still a funny gray color with blue lips. The ambulance came again, and took me down to Memorial Central where I was intubated and taken to the I.C.U. At that point I had a blood sugar of 526. I’ve never had high blood pressure in my life, and I have never had diabetes... until now.”
In our next story DeeAnn shares her experience of being in the ICU as a patient and offers a nurse’s perspective of the isolation and the moments she says she wanted to give up, and felt like she didn’t want to go on.
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