What is life after COVID-19 like? For a Milton teen, it’s a long journey from the coma she was in in the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. Now recovering at home, Halene O’Connell, 16, is fighting the after-effects of the virus.

In late June, Halene awoke with a fever and cough. When she began having trouble breathing, she was rushed to the hospital and tested positive for COVID-19. On June 28, she was placed in a medically induced coma in the Pediatric ICU and required a ventilator to breathe. Only her mother, Carrie, was allowed to be with her and never left her side. Miraculously, Carrie never tested positive for the virus, but her husband did and has recovered from it.

Halene was discharged after 21 days in the hospital and her mom shared an update on Aug. 18. “All of her blood work looks good and she is improving every day,” said Carrie. “She was so weak; she had to learn to walk again, feed herself again, and at first she couldn’t even hold a cell phone.”

Halene is doing exercises every day to regain her strength so that she has more stamina when she returns to Milton High School. Halene’s heart was affected, too. She was taking blood-thinning shots and steroids for two weeks and is just recently getting a rapid heartbeat back to almost normal. “I gave her an Apple watch, so she can monitor if she’s moving around too much,” said Carrie. 

In addition, Carrie says it could take up to six months for Halene’s lungs to heal after a bout with pneumonia while she was in the hospital. As far as long-term outlook goes, the family is trying to stay cautiously optimistic, but Halene’s mom wonders if there will be scarring on her daughter’s lungs for the rest of her life. 

“It was like her life stopped for a month and, because of the coma and the sedation, she doesn’t remember much,” said Carrie. “She is really looking forward to getting back to school this month and seeing her friends.” The family has a message for adults and kids alike: Wear a mask.

 


This is an excerpt from Stories from the Heart. Click to read more.

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