Keeping Faith Through COVID-19
“It was about 3:30 in the morning, and she had woken up. She was completely pale and even a little bit blueish in her mouth. At this point, I said, ‘You know what? No. We have to go to the emergency room.’ I just grabbed anything I could find and wrapped her in a blanket and we headed for the emergency room. I explained to them, ‘We have been exposed to COVID-19 and we need to be isolated right away.’”
Nancy Rivera Reyes and her daughter, Faith, had been exposed to COVID-19 after Nancy’s husband tested positive for the virus. While Nancy, her husband and their other children experienced milder symptoms, Faith–a healthy teenager who’d never even had the flu–was struggling to breathe just a few days after beginning to feel ill. After arriving at another hospital’s emergency room, they were transferred to UK HealthCare by ambulance. After some deliberation, the doctors and nurses felt it was best for Faith and her mom to be placed in isolation in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
“We spent the next ten days in the PICU,” said Nancy. “I am grateful for the PICU because although she’s not exactly an adult, she’s a young adult. Her soul and her mind were fragile at that point. She went through a very hard time.”
Faith was fitted with a high-flow oxygen mask, but continued to struggle to get enough air. She wasn’t just experiencing shortness of breath and severe pain throughout her chest and her back–her heart rate was spiking as high as 147 beats per minute. Faith’s doctors and nurses were doing everything possible to not have to intubate her–a last resort for COVID patients.
“There were moments when we thought she wasn’t going to make it,” said Nancy. “She was choking and coughing, and bleeding through her nose at the same time. She just was gasping for air. There were moments where we thought that she probably wasn’t going to make it because sometimes the oxygen was just not working anymore.”
“I was so afraid and nervous,” said Nancy. “But they did everything possible to tell me ‘We’re going to get through this. We’re going to work together. We’re figuring this out. Although this is very new for us, we will do everything that we possibly can.’ And they did.”
After many days of tears, prayers, agony and uncertainty, Faith began to improve. She started to look and sound more like herself–even asking Nancy to call her school to make sure her grades weren’t being affected by her absence. Her appetite returned and her breathing became easier. Through it all, her team–including nurses Taylor Lewis, Jessica Willis and Allison Buskey–cared for her and cheered her on.
“Sitting there in the hospital having to ask for help for everything I normally did by myself was really hard for me,” said Faith, a fiercely independent high school junior. “They just made it so much easier because they didn’t wait for me to ask them. But at the same time, they checked with me before to make sure it was okay, like, ‘Can I brush your hair for you?’ or ‘Can I sit with you?’ or ‘Can I wash your hair for you?’. They were so on top of everything for me.”
After ten days of intensive care, Faith and Nancy recovered enough to be released from the hospital. To some, it’s a miracle. To others, it can be explained by the deep faith in God that maintained Nancy and Faith through their darkest hours. But to all, including the team that cared for them, it’s a story of hope.
Faith has a powerful message for other young adults. “A lot of people my age are not taking this seriously. I feel like if they hear it from somebody that actually went through it and came out of it, it’d register with them more: We’re healthy, but we need to be careful. We’re not immune to this.”