COLORADO SPRINGS — When DeeAnn Weed, a registered nurse, was hospitalized with COVID in December 2020 – just a week before vaccines became available (STORY HERE YHF: After weeks in hospital with severe COVID, Colorado nurse and veteran still battling aftermath of virus) - she was fighting for her life, and she was doing so with insider knowledge from the medical world.
DeeAnn says she doesn’t remember going to the hospital, but she later learned from her husband, Larry, and her caregivers that her condition went downhill quickly. “I was catatonic. I was staring at the floor. The ambulance came, and they took me down to (UCHealth) Memorial Central, where I was intubated and taken to the ICU.
“While I was in the ICU, I was intubated for 10 days. During those 10 days, I went into complete renal failure and had a dialysis line put in my neck. I was on dialysis for 36 hours. I could not talk, I couldn't raise my hand, I couldn't do anything. It's a very lonely world when you're not breathing so well and you have God knows what crammed up your nose. Feeding tubes, oxygen - a little bit of everything. I had four IVs in my arm at one point. I was so weak that they would literally put the call button under my thumb - but I didn't have the strength to push it.”
DeeAnn says as it all played out, she wishes she could forget the times she does remember. “There were times that I wished I didn't know so much about medicine - I'd rather be left in the dark.”
That medical knowledge - or insider baseball if you will - didn't help with the isolation, either. DeeAnn says: “My husband and my son were both put in quarantine (at home in Woodland Park), I was in isolation for 20 days. Nobody came to see me - they couldn't. It was very lonely.”
At one point, it appeared that COVID might get the best of DeeAnn. She recalls: “My critical care doctor told me that he didn't know what else to do. They were trying everything, and I was just barely hanging on. They called my husband and told him, ‘You should start making plans’ because I wasn’t going to make it through the night.”
DeeAnn did make it through that night, and the many lonely nights of isolation that followed. “The only people I talked to were staff. You know when you lay in a hospital bed, on the false ceiling tiles, there's on average 732 little dots in each square? I counted all the dots over and over many times. That's how bored I was.”
Bored and trapped in her body, too weak to speak or move and left alone with her thoughts, and her medical knowledge of exactly what was happening to her. “They kept giving me potassium in my IV, because it was so low. When potassium goes through your veins it burns, like there is a tourniquet around your arm. I would sit there and just watch it slowly dripping from a little tiny bag. I would watch it slowly drip, and then the machine would start beeping saying it was done and I would think, ‘Oh thank God it's over.’ They would come in all happy and say, ‘We only have three more bags to go.’ I would think, ‘You've got to be kidding me.’ I got four bags every day for probably a week and each bag was sheer pain for an hour. I couldn't move, I couldn’t fight or pull the IV out, nothing. I couldn't talk and tell them please stop giving me that because it hurts - nothing.”
At times DeeAnn says it all became too much to bear. “At one point they sat me up a little, and I saw a camera up in the corner of the room, and I kept mouthing words to the camera, ‘I know you can see me - I'm done.’ I wanted to give them a tap out sign, but I couldn't raise my arm. All I could do was raise my finger. I wished people would have just let me go, I don't want to live through this.”
There were so many moments that DeeAnn felt she was close to death. “When I was in the ICU, I had a dream, I don't know what it was, a hallucination, I just remember being in the dark and I had a conversation with my father. He told me he was proud of me, and proud of my son. He was proud to call him his grandson, and that he needs to keep up with his baseball - that one day it'll pay off for him. That was it, I don't know how long it lasted. My father died in a car accident 27 years ago. I talked to chaplains, and they said most of the time when somebody talks to their dead relatives they are on the edge, or very very close to death. When I woke up it kind of dawned on me and I realized how close to death I really was.”
Finally, as the days slogged and so many tirelessly cared for her, DeeAnn began to turn the corner. “Physical therapy came in, they were the first to get me to stand up. My physical therapist was wonderful; he’s a big goofball. We would slow dance at the side of the bed, march at the side of the bed, and he would help me get out of the bed and into a chair for the first time. I was released from that stupid bed and I got sit up and look out the window and see the world. It was snowing that day; it was the best snow I've ever seen in my life.”
Eventually DeeAnn left the hospital after 35 days and she was 35 pounds lighter from her battle with COVID. Again, that insider knowledge told her it wasn’t a diet plan any medical professional would endorse. “I kind of told myself that I knew I was never going to be the same person. I knew this is going to change my life - and it has.
In our next story Deeann talks about her life now as a COVID long-hauler, how she feels about vaccines along with the COVID story she wrote that she hopes might help others.
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