In December 2020, Kristin was a healthy, 31-year-old nurse practitioner who cared for patients at her rural medical clinic. Although she worked in health care, she didn’t think she was at risk for severe COVID illness and was patiently awaiting her turn to get vaccinated. Her life changed drastically after spending 111 days in the hospital with COVID. Now Kristin has numerous ongoing medical issues but uses her expertise and experience to continue educating her patients about the importance of vaccination.
Kristin shares the story of how she almost lost her life to COVID.
At the age of 31, I was a nurse practitioner who owned my own business – a rural medical clinic. Our family consisted of my husband and our son. I didn’t have any existing medical conditions and I thought I would be fine if I got sick with COVID. However, I was worried about my older patients. I was looking forward to getting vaccinated in January 2021. I kept myself calm while working in health care by reminding myself that I was young and healthy and it was best for the other, more vulnerable people who could die from COVID to get vaccinated first.
Prior to my illness, I enjoyed spending time with my family. We would go on vacations and I worked full-time. I loved taking my son to his sporting events. Going to college football games and spending time with friends were some of my favorite things to do.
I’m not quite sure how I became sick, but my husband is also an essential worker so one of us may have brought it home. I started to feel like I had the flu. It was my son’s birthday and a few days before Christmas when my symptoms started to get worse. In hindsight, the entire month before my COVID diagnosis I wasn’t feeling quite right. I think that COVID had impacted me more than I realized at the time.
I was diagnosed with COVID at a local testing center. I also had my antibodies tested and they were high, which made me think I had been sick for a while. Luckily, I had not been around anyone other than my immediate family. We had even canceled our son’s birthday party, just in case. My husband ended up also testing positive for COVID, but my five-year-old son never tested positive, nor did he have any antibodies.
When I started getting shortness of breath, I assumed it would pass. I didn’t want to take up a bed at a hospital, knowing that they were already overrun. One night, however, I texted my husband saying, “I’m sorry for getting COVID. Here are the passwords to my accounts…”. When I still couldn’t breathe, I realized it was serious. My husband had to carry me to the car to go to the emergency department and I was admitted to the hospital that night. I thought I would be out in a few days, but that didn’t happen. My condition continued to worsen and my anxiety was through the roof. Eventually, I was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
I was in the intensive care unit (ICU) for over 100 days on a ventilator and 68 days on ECMO. I experienced failure of almost every organ system. I was on dialysis. After spending 111 days in the hospital, I then went to a long-term acute care facility. Then I spent two weeks in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital.
Yes. I am still short of breath and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I also have a pacemaker for my heart as well as many other ongoing medical conditions.
No. I was diagnosed with COVID on December 21, 2020. The first COVID vaccines in my area were administered on December 23, 2020. So, I never had a chance to get vaccinated prior to my illness.
Since that time, I have been vaccinated. And I also got my five-year-old son vaccinated because I want him to be protected.
As a result of getting COVID, my life will never be the same. This was a traumatic experience for me and my family. Before my illness, I did not realize that young people can be severely impacted by COVID. I want everyone to know that they do not ever want to go through what I did. Getting vaccinated can help prevent severe illness.
I’m a nurse practitioner in primary care, so I educate patients about COVID and the importance of vaccination all the time. I’ve also garnered a social media following that I use to advocate for vaccines.
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