Hawaii Island COVID survivor shares story after 90 days in ICU: ‘It’s horrible’

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Big Island woman shared her eye-opening, first-hand experience with COVID in the hopes it will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

Karen Lindsey, 68, spent three months in the hospital fighting COVID.

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She miraculously recovered and moved to a nursing center after several brushes with death, but she still faces a long road ahead.

Lindsey is one of the lucky ones — she survived COVID.

She was discharged to a nursing facility on Sunday, Sept. 19, after she spent 90 days at the Queen’s Medical Center — almost all of them in ICU.

She shared her story from her hospital bed with her husband and high school sweetheart, Leabert Lindsey, by her side.

“It’s horrible,” Lindsey said as she gasped for air, she still had the tracheostomy tube in. “The disease and how it affects your whole body.”

Lindsey contracted COVID at a family gathering in Utah in June.

She was not vaccinated. It was not that she was against the vaccine; her husband said she just delayed getting it.

“I did my best to be careful, but I dropped the ball,” explained Lindsey.

Her husband, who is vaccinated, said the ordeal was traumatic for their entire family.

“It’s very devastating to get the call and say you got to come and see your loved one cause she might not make it,” he explained. “We had that happen a couple of times.”

They were so grateful that she pulled through. She got the first dose of the vaccine before she left the hospital.

“We wouldn’t want anybody to go through this. To prevent going through what we’ve gone through, get vaccinated,” Leabert said.

“If there’s any way to prevent this horrific illness, then that would be a number one goal,” Lindsey said.

Queen’s Medical Center Dr. Kuo-Chiang Lian was one of the many physicians who treated Lindsey during her stay.

He said recovering from severe COVID like she had could take weeks to months. He added some continue to suffer the effects of COVID one year or longer after the illness.

“She had pretty devastating lung injury so may have long effects beyond the current recovery period for that,” Dr. Lian said

That was in addition to other organ failures she suffered during her stay.

She also has to rebuild her strength. She was bedridden for 90 days — walking and even standing were a challenge.

“Two days before she left, she stood with a physical therapist for the first time,” Dr. Lian said. “She was able to stand with difficulty for only a few minutes, but it’s a tremendous success “

Dr. Lian said her desire to be independent again and get back to her family and grandkids on the Big Island is a huge motivating factor for her.

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Lindsey said, “Family is always number one.”

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