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Mother's day: a Covid survivor story

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

(Patients' names have been changed to protect their privacy)

Vera came into our office on Monday, May 10, 2021 with a dozen dark red roses. She handed one to each of the mothers in the office and gave the rest to me when I stepped into the exam room.

"Happy Mother's Day" she said, with a rueful, crooked smile "I don't have a mother anymore this year; but you guys are still mothers, I hope".

Vera was the quintessential Valley girl growing up in the 80's in Los Angeles. She was the daughter of a successful Jewish doctor and spent much of her time growing up attending various parties and events that honed her social skills. She became an independent journalist, a regular contributor to the social page of local newspapers and magazines. She even authored a couple of books detailing the trials and tribulations of a journalist's life in the exclusive celebrity enclaves of Hollywood. She was well into her 50's by the time her father and mother referred her to me to be her primary care doctor many years ago.

After the Covid shut down in March, 2020 I had seen Vera only one time for her check up and medication refill in August. She informed me then that her father was still working at an Urgent Care in Los Angeles despite his advanced years, but her mother was staying home and practicing social distancing since she was in her 80's and is at high risk for covid complications. During the November surge, it was Vera's father who called me to let me know that she had been hospitalized along with her mother at Northridge hospital. He asked me if I could do anything to check up on her because he was not allowed in to see them, even though he had recovered from his own bout with Covid after 1 week of upper respiratory symptoms.

While I did not have hospital privileges at Northridge Medical Center, I was able to contact the hospital physicians and nurses there to get regular updates on the status of Vera and her mother, with her father's permission. Over the course of the next 6-8 weeks, despite all of the medications that was administered, both of them developed severe hypoxemia and ended up being transferred to the ICU for oxygen support, with BiPAP in Vera's case and eventual intubation in her mother's case. After 5 weeks, Vera stabilized from the respiratory point of view but she suffered a stroke during the course of her infection and treatment, requiring another week of hospitalization. She was discharged from the hospital after 6 weeks with a speech defect, a right facial droop and massive hair loss, but her mom passed away from overwhelming infection after 8 weeks.

Vera and her father had a drive-thru funeral for her mother in keeping with the mortuary's guidelines and their overwhelming workload. Her father went back to work after the funeral. Vera herself had the insight to comment that it was probably not the healthiest thing for him to stay home and wallow in his grief or guilt as much as her own grief and depression was only attenuated by the fluoxetine that she was on.

At the end of the visit , she said " Well, if I can survive Mother's day, I can survive the rest of the year ".

Who knew Mother's day 2021 would bring such sorrow to so many people everywhere?

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