COVID survivor faces long road to recovery with no guarantee she’ll ever be back to normal

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Doctors said it’s a miracle 68-year-old Karen Lindsey is still alive. The grandmother from the Big Island spent three months in the ICU at Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu battling COVID.

Against all odds, she pulled through and transferred to Islands Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation on Sept. 19, but that was just the beginning of the long road to recovery facing Lindsey.

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Since then, her doctor said she’s made great progress, but there’s no guarantee she’ll ever make a full recovery.

Three weeks ago, Karen couldn’t even sit up and could barely speak.

“It’s horrible,” she said gasping for air, “the disease and how it affects your whole body.”

Now, she can sit upright and is able to speak more easily.

Her husband, Leabert Lindsey, has been by her side every step of the way.

“I’m thankful every day,” she said.

Her tracheostomy was removed last week and she’s breathing on her own, only needing oxygen occasionally. She can finally feed herself and hopes to eat solid foods soon.

She’s slowly regaining her strength.

Hawaii Pacific Health Pulminary Critical Care Medicine Physician Dr. Eric Crawley stopped by her room to check in on her.

“What’s the strongest thing you’ve done physically so far?” Dr. Crawley asked.

“I think today was standing with assistance,” Karen replied. “So that’s, to me, it’s an accomplishment.”

Dr. Crawley said it that was good and agreed that it was a big deal.

Each milestone brings Karen one step closer to returning home to the Big Island to be with her family. But it isn’t easy.

“I struggle with things, but yet there are so many that have passed and succumbed to the illness, and in many ways I’m very fortunate,” she said. “But still, the battle is still there.”

Dr. Crawley said there’s no guarantee she’ll ever return to normal.

“We hear of people recovering from COVID, but a lot of times we don’t see that. It’s not like you just all of a sudden you’re better. These patients that are severely in the ICU, they end up spending months slowly recovering function, if they can recover function,” Dr. Crawley explained. “Some people don’t. The lungs become severely damaged and are often scared and often with chronic injury and chronic disability.”

Karen hopes sharing her story will convince more people will get vaccinated.

“I think that’s a main goal is to help people decide that vaccination is a good thing,” she said.

“And I’m proof,” her husband added. “I did get vaccianted.”

“And he didn’t get sick,” Karen explained.

She got her first shot while she was in Queen’s Medical Center and received her second shot last week. Karen had planned to get the vaccine but waited too long. It’s something she regrets not doing.

“One of the first things she told me was, ‘I wish I got vaccinated,'” Leabert said.

They’ve been fighting COVID-19 and its devastating affects since she contracted the virus at a family gathering in Utah in June. Leabert said he wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

“That was the hardest, the hardest thing is to see her go through,” he said holding back tears. “This, it’s devastating and I just thank God. It’s good she’s strong.”

They are grateful to the amazing staff at Queen’s Medical Center and all of the nurses and doctors who helped them and kept her alive.

In addition to the physical and emotional toll it’s taken on them both, COVID has also cause financial hardships.

“We have to fly back and forth and back and forth, but you do what you have to do to support, to be with her,” Leabert said. “It was challenging, but I had a lot of family support, friends’ support.”

Leabert, who works as a musician performing at hotels on the Big Island, already faced challenges due to the pandemic, but his wife’s bout with COVID and the mounting expenses have compounded.

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Despite it all, they are staying positive and look forward to the day she can return home.

If you’d like to help the Lindsey ohana, please click here.

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