Monica
A COVID Story

Place of Residence: Rockville, Maryland

Monica describes her 41-year-old daughter, Maria, as a bright light who makes this world a better place. She never imagined that COVID-19 would cause her daughter to be hospitalized for 130 days and almost lose her life. Now she wants to help inform others about the importance of vaccination, especially minority populations who may struggle with vaccine access and education.

Maria’s mother, Monica, shares the story of how her daughter almost lost her life to COVID.  

How would you describe your daughter, Maria? What are some of her best qualities and favorite things to do?

Maria is just a tremendous human being. She’s smart, kind, loving and very caring to her family and friends. She’s a super achiever in many ways. She’s an amazing professional in her chosen field, a loving role model to her younger sister, and she’s the friend everyone wants in their life. Maria has an extraordinary sense of humor – very witty and spontaneous. She’s a bright light who makes this world a better place with her everyday deeds and amazing big smile. Maria’s favorite things to do include yoga, hiking and spending time with family and friends. She also loves to travel the world.

How did Maria become sick and how was she feeling?

Maria started feeling sick near the end of October 2020. She was experiencing headaches, sinus and allergy symptoms, and was feeling really tired. She called her primary doctor, had a telehealth visit, and it was determined that she had some type of virus. Maria insisted on getting tested for COVID, which she did at a nearby testing site, and she was negative. Two days later she was feeling much worse and went to the emergency room. She again tested negative for COVID-19 and was prescribed antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. Upon returning home, Maria developed a high fever and severe nausea. She was vomiting and didn’t even have the energy to get off her couch to get a drink of water. Maria has told me many times that she could not imagine feeling worse than what she did at that time. She finally called an ambulance and on her way to the hospital it was discovered that her blood oxygen level was only 40 percent.

How did Maria’s illness progress and at what point did you know it was serious?

At the hospital, Maria tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) where they attempted to stabilize her. Maria recalls that the medical team was consulting her about her treatment, but she doesn’t remember the details because she was so sick. Ten days later she was intubated and transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Within hours of her arrival at the hospital I received a call letting me know that Maria’s lungs were not working and she needed to be put on life support known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The doctors told me that Maria might not survive without it. That phone call was the beginning of the biggest fight of my life! Maria spent 130 days in the hospital, including 69 days on ECMO.

Was Maria vaccinated?

Maria wasn’t vaccinated because at the time there were no available vaccines. As vaccines started becoming available, it was my experience that they were almost impossible to get. This shows us that we need an efficient and timely distribution process for vaccines in our country.

What do you want others to know about COVID vaccination? What advice would you give them if they don’t think vaccines are important?

I’m originally from Ecuador and I think education is key, especially where large minority populations reside. Vaccines need to be made accessible and education should address the needs of specific communities. I want others to know that a simple vaccination could make the difference between staying alive or not! We now talk to our friends and family about the importance of vaccination and we are always looking for opportunities to share Maria’s miraculous story of survival.

Monica is now a strong vaccine advocate and shares her daughter’s story to remind others that everyone is at risk from COVID and vaccination can help protect our families and communities.

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