A Story of Survival: How Prone Positioning Saved Crystal’s Life
“March 11th, 2020, is the day that changed my life. I was at the hospital for a D&C due to a miscarriage. Unfortunately, during the procedure, things went very wrong. I experienced something called Negative Pressure Pulmonary Edema (NPPE). This caused my trachea to spasm continuously and fluid poured into my lungs. I was placed on a ventilator and immediately put in a medically-induced coma with <2% chance of survival. I was diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and Acute Respiratory Failure with hypoxia.
I was transferred to the Surgical ICU where staff worked to get the fluid out of my lungs as I was experiencing severe sepsis and septic shock. My husband was given two choices: ECMO or a specialty bed, RotoProne. After researching both options, he chose to go with the RotoProne bed from Arjo. I was then placed into the RotoProne bed and rotated side-to-side in a prone position (facedown) for the next several days, allowing fluid to drain from my lungs and keep excess pressure off my lungs and heart.
They said I had a 2% chance of survival.
Everything was very touch and go for several days. On the 6 th day, they thought I could be placed into a supine position (face up), but a mucus plug formed partially blocking the intubation tube. Once the blockage was cleared, I was placed back into the prone position on the RotoProne for the next three days.
On the 9th day, I was rotated into a supine position. My body was making improvements and the medical team started to wean me off the paralytics.
On my 11th day in the hospital, I was transferred to a regular hospital bed. I was soon extubated and immediately placed on a Bi-PAP to assist with my breathing. My Bi-PAP was making a noise that sounded like it was saying the word “WHY” over and over again. My internal thought was “because I want to live, that’s why.” I still did not fully comprehend what was going on or where I was.
I was told I survived because I have a greater life purpose.
Hours later, the Intensivist took off my Bi-PAP and told me to just breathe. It took a few moments but I started breathing on my own. I was placed on 10 liters of oxygen to keep my levels up.
Over the next few days, I suffered from delirium and ICU psychosis. Due to Coronavirus, I was moved to the cancer wing where there would be no COVID-19 patients. Physical and Occupational therapy started and slowly, I began to relearn how to move, walk, and basic tasks of daily living. With lockdown in place due to COVID-19, we were advised to plan for discharge to home with in-home care including a Nurse, PA, PT & OT. My husband arranged for an oxygen system, a walker, and a shower chair that I would need. Even though my right lung was still filled 25% with fluid, I was finally discharged after 16 days.
It has been four months since my journey started. I have come a long way, but still, have progress to make. I have been off oxygen for about 3 months. I am much weaker than before and get exhausted easily now. I have scars I carry with me that will permanently serve as a reminder of what happened. I joined an online support group for those who have experienced ARDS. Not everyone has the same exact journey, but it is nice to talk with people who understand what I’ve been through. I have learned that I have Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS), the disability that remains after surviving critical illness comprised of impairment in cognition, psychological health, and physical function of the intensive care unit survivor. I’m trying to get back to “normal,” but I know I’ll forever be changed because of this experience.
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