When Jennifer Hernandez started to have a throbbing headache in July, she didn’t think much of it.
She was only mildly concerned when she also started to feel weak and suddenly didn’t have the energy to get out of bed.
“I’m 39 and I didn’t have any health problems,” Hernandez said. “No diabetes, no heart trouble. Everything was perfectly normal. I wasn’t the kind of person who seemed like they had too much to worry about from COVID. I didn’t think anything serious was going on.”
Soon, however, trouble breathing was added to Jennifer’s symptoms and she decided it was time to go to JPS Health Network to get checked out. She was shocked to learn it was COVID-19 she was dealing with. It was even more shocking how quickly things soon spiraled out of control.
Hernandez was immediately placed in the Intensive Care Unit where she recalled initially feeling as if she was too well to be there. It wasn’t long, however, before she could sense the strength and energy leaving her body by the minute. Jennifer remembered being told in late July that she needed to be intubated to assist her distressed breathing. She doesn’t recall anything from then until the end of August when she awoke, disoriented, in a hospital room.
From what her nurses told her, she’s glad she can’t remember the ordeal she went through which including having to be resuscitated twice after her heart stopped beating, a bout with pneumonia, trouble with gall stones and a battle with a blood infection.
“A nurse told me one of the times they had to revive me, I died for seven minutes,” Hernandez said. “I’m so thankful for all the doctors and nurses who took care of me. I know if they wouldn’t have worked so hard that I wouldn’t be here today. I owe them my life.”
Respiratory Therapist Tina Cantu said she has been tremendously inspired by Hernandez’s incredible recovery.
“Nine months into dealing with COVID-19, we still can’t explain why some patients do well and others have such a tough time, and she certainly had a very tough time,” Cantu said. “When patients make it to be on a ventilator, they have a 50 percent chance of survival, so we have seen a lot of loss. I’ve been a respiratory therapist at JPS for 20 years, and I have never cried at work before COVID. It’s been a tough time that never seems to end, so it’s wonderful to celebrate these successes when we can save a life and send a person back home to their family.”
Jennifer was finally strong enough to be discharged from JPS in October. She went to a rehabilitation center where she had to learn to walk again and do simple daily tasks that she said she took for granted before. Finally able to return to her home the week of Thanksgiving, Jennifer remains on oxygen and knows she has a long road to recovery, but she feels herself getting stronger every day.
“It’s been a long time, and I have my better days and worse days, but I feel like I am getting better, little by little,” Hernandez said.