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25-year-old coronavirus survivor walks out of hospital after being pronounced brain dead

Published Oct 22nd, 2020 7:36PM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms
Image: kieferpix/Adobe
  • A 25-year-old coronavirus survivor managed to walk out of a rehab hospital after being declared brain dead weeks after getting infected during the summer.
  • The woman developed strokes and had to be revived from a heart attack. These are COVID-19 symptoms that have been observed in many patients, including young adults.
  • The woman stopped breathing for 30 minutes in June, and doctors advised the patient’s family that she would be a vegetable.

Physicians were stunned in the first months of the novel coronavirus pandemic to witness a steady increase in neurological and cardiological issues resulting from COVID-19. Studies revealed COVID-19 patients were likely to experience strokes and heart attacks, including younger individuals.

Researchers soon realized that the culprit was indeed the virus, due to its effects on the blood. Clotting is a severe COVID-19 complication that’s being treated in hospitalized patients with blood thinners. These drugs can prevent clot formation, which would otherwise harm all sorts of organs, including the brain and the heart. Clotting can occur in the tiny vessels that serve the lungs, making the vital gas exchange impossible at that level. More recently, doctors have speculated that clotting can lead to ringing in the ear and even hearing loss. And those symptoms appear in younger patients as well.

Young adults aren’t guaranteed to survive coronavirus without any problems. Some experience severe complications, some develop Long COVID, and some die. But then there are amazing stories that reveal why hope should never be lost after a positive coronavirus diagnosis, like the case of a 25-year-old who was declared brain dead during her COVID-19 experience. Not only did she recover, but she made it through rehab and walked out of the hospital on her own.

Tionna Hairston and her mother Stacey Peatross were both diagnosed in May, per WPRI.

“She took care of me when I was sick. She had hardly any symptoms,” her mother said. But Hairstone’s health then took a turn for the worse, as the young woman experienced the severe COVID-19 complications mentioned above.

“Strokes. She had a heart attack and had to be revived from that. She had to have an implanted defibrillator placed,”  the medical director at Novant Health Rehabilitation Hospital Dr. James Mclean.

Hairston stopped breathing for 30 minutes at some point in June, and she was pronounced brain dead. “They thought that we should take her off of life support because she had no hope for life,” Peatross said. “They thought she would be a vegetable. She wouldn’t have any quality of life at all.”

But the 25-year-old miraculously got better. She was in rehab for more than a month, relearning how to eat, dress, and stand on her own. She was released from Novant Rehab Hospital on Monday, and she will continue her rehabilitation at home.

“To see her rise up out of that chair and take steps when nobody thought she would ever be able to walk again … She said, ‘Mommy, I’m gonna walk,’” her mother said.

This isn’t the first case of a COVID-19 patient having to relearn how to perform certain tasks after experiencing severe complications. A young woman in Spain who thought she wouldn’t be affected by the virus ended up spending some 69 days in the ICU. Then she was transferred to a rehab facility as she had to relearn how to walk herself.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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