My name is Maria Young and I am a severe COVID-19 survivor.
In October of 2020, we all anxiously awaited the development of COVID-19 vaccines. I was a healthy, active 41-year-old doing boot camp, yoga, and working as a director of conference services. Even with precautions, I contracted COVID-19 and became very sick. After two negative PCR tests, and a hospital release, I called an ambulance for myself. My oxygen was at 40 percent when it should have been in the upper 90s. After 12 days at a local hospital on several types of oxygen masks, I was sedated, intubated, and transferred to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and was placed on a ventilator and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), the most intense form of life support that is only available in less than 10 percent of US hospitals.
I was not expected to survive. I spent almost three months fully sedated and often paralyzed. During my hospitalization, I suffered several collapsed lungs, a blood clot, a severe eye injury, several infections, three blood transfusions, drug withdrawals, delirium, and demoralization. My family was unable to see me for almost three months. I remember nothing from early November 2020 until mid-February 2021. As I recovered, I had to relearn how to walk, talk, swallow, and be independent.
On the day of my hospital release, my parents and sister received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine. That same week we lost a close family member to COVID-19 in Ecuador before she was able to be vaccinated.
I’m happy to say that I am now up to date with my COVID-19 vaccines. As a result of my illness, I have started a non-profit called Maria’s Miracle, which is dedicated to funding critical care medical training and supporting families and patients facing ECMO treatment or recovery from prolonged hospital intensive care unit (ICU) stays. I also work as a vaccine advocate with national non-profit organizations, including Vaccinate Your Family and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, to increase awareness about the seriousness of COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination.
I share my story not to instill fear but to highlight the risks of this virus and to emphasize that vaccination is our best protection. I never imagined I would be the one to almost lose my life to COVID-19. As a result of my illness, my life will never be the same. It is my hope that my story can be a lesson for others.