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South Carolina resident gets 'second chance' after COVID-19

Critical care nurse Michele Baudet gowns up before going into a COVID-19 patient's room at Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet on July 31, 2020. The hospital is over capacity and has been handling with a surge of patients since mid-June with no
Gavin Jackson
FILE - Critical care nurse Michele Baudet gowns up before going into a COVID-19 patient's room at Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet on July 31, 2020.

The Orangeburg resident entered the emergency room at RMC on Sept. 26 with not just COVID-19, but double pneumonia and kidney failure.

She actually has a slew of pre-existing conditions which put her at higher risk of death from the virus, including bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.

Diabetes, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, gout and chronic kidney disease are among her other conditions.

"The doctors got me in the ER, got me on the table. I was unresponsive and everything. They hooked me up to IVs and stuff, and they told my daughter that I wasn't going to make it," Brown said.

"That COVID really did a number on me. I really appreciate TRMC. They saved my life. I was gone. I had to fight. They helped me fight," the 51-year-old said.

The mother of three and grandmother of five indeed had an uphill battle. She had to be immediately dialyzed upon entering the ER. She was placed in the intensive care unit after two days in the ER.

"When I was in the ICU, they took real good care of me. ... They brought the dialysis machine to my bedside to dialyze me while I was out of it. They put me on a ventilator, but after I was on the ventilator for five days and still not responding, they told my daughter that I couldn't stay like that because I'm not getting enough oxygen to my lungs," she said.

Brown continued, "They had to put a trach in. Once they put the trach in, they put a feeding tube in me, too. So I had a trach, feeding tube and a port-a-cath for dialysis."

She was on the ventilator for maybe three weeks.

"They said I woke up one time and was fighting. They did tell me that. So they strapped me down to the bed because I was pulling at tubes and carrying on, but I don't remember none of that," Brown said.

She was grateful RMC provided video conferencing capabilities through which she was able to interact with family members who then could still not visit her in the hospital.

"They video called and talked to me," Brown said.

COVID stripped her of her sense of taste, sense of smell and ability to walk and talk.

"Slowly but surely, my senses started coming back. I started remembering stuff," Brown said.

"The only thing I could do was move my arms and move my lips. My brain was still functioning. ... So I just looked and kept smiling and nodding and things like that. ... The staff was great to me there in the ICU. They took care of me. They turned me, they changed me. They did everything they could for me," she said.

After approximately a week or two, Brown said she was transferred to the medical step-down unit, where she received physical therapy and speech services and was also eventually weaned off of her feeding tube.

"I had to write notes. I started writing, communicating so they could understand me," she said, noting that her physical therapists were gentle encouragers and treated her well.

"After a while, they got me up off the ventilator. They put me on regular oxygen. It took a little bit of time. … I had to train myself how to breathe all over again," Brown said.

Her respiratory and physical therapists made a good team of helpmates for her, she said, eventually helping her to eat regular food again. After two weeks in the medical step-down unit, her next destination was the pulmonary care unit.

"I didn't want to leave the medical step-down unit. I was like, 'No, this is my own little apartment.' I didn't want to go, but they said, 'You've graduated. You're moving to PCU,'" Brown said.

Her family, including her two sons, daughter and loving husband, John, made sure she was comfortable while at the hospital.

"My family had brought me blankets from home, nightgowns, clothes, things like that to make me feel comfortable. Lotion, soap. So I didn't feel like I was missing anything," Brown said.

She continued, "I had a lot of support. The hospital gave me a lot of support. With all that support, I was getting better and better every day, believe it or not. I had a bunch of people praying for me."

The New York native said she had people there praying, along with those in her local community. She knew it made a difference in her life.

She recalled one physical therapist who gently pushed her to regain her ability to walk.

"He had me work my legs first, and he came every day. He was so cheerful. He was like, 'Come on,' and I would say, 'My gout is acting up. I can't do this. I can't stand up,''' she said.

The gentle persuasion of the physical therapist eventually paid off.

"I started walking again. ... Between the occupational therapy, I was able to wash because I once couldn't wash myself. The nurses were washing me, and then my family would come in and wash me," Brown said.

"That's bad when you can't wash yourself and take care of your own needs, but I had to do all that. I had to learn to do all of that over again. John would come in there and help me. … With all that going on, it helped me to get better and better every day," Brown said.

John said, "Some individuals say they believe in God. I think she got a personal communication and don't even know it. … I think she asked for the Lord to touch her."

Her husband says he asks the Lord every day to give him the strength to do his will and take care of his wife.

"The Lord has been great and wonderful," he said.

As her condition improved, Brown was ready to go home, but couldn't go as fast as she wanted.

"I had to stay there because of the trach. They tried to find a place that took a trach patient and could do dialysis. Most places are full because of COVID. So I had no place to go. I had to stay in the hospital," she said.


The trach was eventually removed and Brown found herself on the hospital's fourth floor for rehabilitation.

"I was crying. It was almost Thanksgiving. I never missed a Thanksgiving with my kids," Brown said.

She eventually left the hospital the week before Thanksgiving.

"TRMC really did take good care of me. ... They did all of this so I could get well and I could get out of there. Once I got out, I told them I would tell my story because those people saved my life," she said. "Between the prayers, my family, those doctors and those nurses, those people saved my life."

She said she is grateful for her "great" life now and how far she has come.

"I had all those pre-existing conditions, and I fell sick. I fell real sick. They didn't expect me to live. ... I'm thankful. I'm positive. You tell me you got something wrong, I'll try to tell you to look on the bright side. I ain't lying to you. It's like I've been given a second chance to do something better," Brown said.

She said she cherishes the extra time she's been given to spend with her grandchildren, and appreciated all the inspiration and motivation her children provided her when she was sick.

"I really love my children. They show me love in return now, and it's priceless. That means a whole lot. They never let me down. My family took good care of me," she said.