A family – and care team – fight for a COVID survivor
Jesus Perez was already a survivor. At 53, he’d endured renal failure and a resulting kidney transplant.
In May, he began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Family members brought the Fort Worth resident to the emergency room, where he fell into respiratory failure.
Placed on a ventilator, complications continued and doctors arranged transfer to Baylor University Medical Center for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment – a last-chance therapy that replaces heart and lung function.
For a month and a half, Jesus fought for his life. Miraculously, he stabilized and was sent back to the hospital near home.
There, Jesus remained on the ventilator, had chest tubes inserted for a collapsed lung and restarted dialysis.
A week later, he stabilized and was transferred to a long-term acute care facility.
Unfortunately, Jesus declined further and returned to the hospital. Breathing capabilities dropped until full oxygen support was required. The transplanted kidney began failing. He endured sepsis, a collapsed lung, COVID-19-associated pneumonia and slow heart rate necessitating a temporary pacemaker.
The family was urged to consider hospice care and make end-of-life plans.
In spite of the poor prognosis, Jesus’ son, Daniel said “my father is a fighter” and would not give up. Daniel continued advocating for aggressive intervention. Over the next 15 days, Jesus stabilized.
The pacemaker was removed and ventilator and oxygen support stepped down.
On July 29, Jesus transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Dallas.
There, a physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a detailed treatment plan that would re-train him to walk, think, breathe, speak and eat again.
Jesus worked with respiratory therapy on coughing and chest exercises to increase stamina and lung capacity. He weaned from oxygen support and began breathing independently.
Physical and occupational therapists started a mobility program, encouraging Jesus to sit in bed, roll and move to its edge. They worked on range of motion and resistance exercises to build arm and leg muscles.
Jesus progressed to transitioning into a chair, increasing core strength. Therapists fitted a walker and he stood for the first time in more than a month.
Simultaneously, speech therapists led mouth, tongue and jaw exercises to improve Jesus’ swallowing ability. His kidneys also continued to heal, with hopes of discontinuing dialysis in the future.
In early September, to his family’s delight, Jesus departed for inpatient rehabilitation to continue building strength and stamina.
The family was profoundly grateful for Jesus’ survival.
“My father’s entire team and our experience at Select Specialty Hospital has been amazing. We know that without the care he received from staff and his knowledgeable pulmonary team, he wouldn’t be here today,” Daniel said. “We cannot thank you enough!”