'you need to fight'
"You need to fight, and we're here to help you."
In September of 2021, the height of the pandemic's Omicron wave, Wanda Correa was living a normal life in Central Kentucky when she fell ill, and before she knew it, was in serious trouble. "One day, I couldn't breathe."
Wanda would be diagnosed with both Covid-19 and pneumonia. She was hospitalized and then sent to a long-term care facility, where she would remain for three months as her condition deteriorated.
"I woke up one day, and my eyes were heavy, and I began to panic," she recalled. "I couldn't move my legs or arms. I could only move my head."
That's when she was transferred to the Respiratory Care Center at Rockcastle Regional Hospital.
Immediately, she felt more comfortable with her treatment because her care team, led by Dr. Karen Saylor, "explained to me what was going on," she recalled. They told her what they were doing and why they were doing it, and they offered encouragement and support. But they also challenged her.
"You need to fight," she recalls hearing from them, "and we're here to help you." Her long road back had begun.
"I said I want to fight because I want to see my kids and family again," Wanda said. "I want to fight, and fight, and fight."
The care team would say to her, '"I know you can do it,' and then I would do it."
She would need all the determination she could muster, because the fight was going to be long. Days turned into weeks, weeks to months.
She remembers milestones such as the day therapists capped her tracheostomy, a surgically created hole through the front of the neck and into the windpipe, enabling her to talk for the first time in months.
It was an emotional moment. "When I heard my voice, I almost cried."
Gradually, respiratory therapists began taking her off the ventilator to allow her to breathe on her own for increasing periods of time.
With each day, her time on the ventilator dwindled, and her appreciation for the care she was receiving grew. They once aroused her fighting spirit; now that fight was giving way to gratefulness.
As she continued to recover, Wanda, who is originally from Puerto Rico, made an authentic Puerto Rican meal - including chicken, rice, shrimp, mofongo - for the staff she'd grown to see as family.
She cried when in May of 2022, after nearly five months, she heard this from unit secretary Krystal Thompson: "Wanda, I've got your papers. We're going to send you home."
In September, she even returned to Rockcastle to organize a baby shower for one of the Rockcastle team. "She planned the whole thing," Thompson said.
Now she is fully recovered, getting good reports from her pulmonologist, and continuing to surprise those around her, including her family physician, with her progress.
"When my family doctor first saw me after I was discharged, she started crying and hugging me. She said she didn't expect to see me again."