So many people have fought, and are still fighting for their lives, against COVID-19. We honor the legacies of thousands in the Central Valley who have lost their battles with the virus, and check in with survivors to find out how they are doing today.
In May of 2020, Karen Parker-Bryant was finally discharged from Clovis Community Medical Center after spending more than a month fighting for her life against COVID-19.
Karen said, “Hearing that people were dying from it, it’s kinda hard to describe… I felt like I just went to sleep and woke up… I can hear all of the horrible things they were saying about my lungs.”
Karen was on a ventilator and was able to get through the illness – in part – due to the trial medication Remdesivir.
“The hospital staff, the nursing staff in ICU, and then when they put me on the fourth floor, it was like those people just floated down from heaven and said we’ll take over from here,” stated Karen.
Today, Karen is back to delivering sermons in her church and singing in the choir. But some serious effects of COVID-19 still linger.
She said, “I can’t straighten my hand out and if I twist it too fast or if I turn it too fast, the pain will go from here all the way to this way.”
Karen has a stark warning for anyone who doesn’t take COVID-19 seriously or is hesitant to get the vaccine.
“Believe me baby honey it’s real, it is real… This COVID has no respect of person, he’ll take you out if you’re five or fifty, or 95, doesn’t matter,” warned Karen.
Sophia Zapata is another survivor of COVID-19.
“It’s no joke, you know? I think the last thing I do remember is not being able to breathe, and then waking up to a bright light,” said Sophia.
Sophia hopes her story reminds people of the harsh reality of this deadly virus. She was at Community Regional Medical Center last year for more than two months. We caught up with Sophia recently, and she shared, though she was happy to finally go home, she was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.
She added, “You stay in the hospital for so long and if something’s wrong, you know they’re gonna come in and check up on you, and I had a lot of fear going home… I was just so scared. I kept on asking questions like, ‘Are you sure I’m going to be okay?'”
Today, Sophia also continues to deal with the long-term health effects from COVID-19.
“I’m not 100-percent. I have my good days and my bad days, as you notice, my voice is not the same… Not only that, due to the multiple strokes that I had, my legs are still not the same, from this part area, it’s numb,” she said.
Sophia was on a ventilator and eventually on the life saving machine ECMO, which stands for “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation”. The machine essentially takes over heart and lung functions for people who have a severe or life-threatening illness. Community Regional is the only hospital in the valley with a specialized ECMO team for adults.
Gabby Manoz was on ECMO as well, as she fought for her life against COVID-19 last fall. Gabby was pregnant and was admitted to the hospital. Doctors had to perform an emergency c-section to get baby Madelynn out. We touched base with Gabby a year out from her near-death experience, and she shared, like Sophia, the fear of contracting the virus again.
“Emotionally it’s been really hard, like it’s depressing some days because I’m like, just home. I get scared that I’m gonna get it or she’s gonna get it, so we’re never really around anybody,” said Gabby.
The young mother says she’s alive today because of Community’s medical staff, and she’s grateful for their hard work and dedication to patients.
She added, “The hospital staff, I mean, I miss them every day. I think about them all the time, that was like my family that took care of me.”
The recovery from COVID-19 has been an uphill battle for Gabby.
“I’m still recovering because I still have breathing issues, so I’m on oxygen at night… It’s all from COVID because I had no problems prior to that,” Gabby stated.
She hopes for a healthy future, but wants others to keep in mind the dangers of COVID-19.
Gabby ended, “This could definitely happen to you… You don’t want to lose somebody because you didn’t want to take precautions or anything, like it’s not a joke, like it seriously ruined my life and I’m just dealing with it.”
If you would like to help continue the life saving work at Community Health System, click here.