Long-Haul Effects of COVID Will Not Take Her Breath Away

Brenda DeAnda’s plans for summer 2020 did not include a diagnosis of COVID-19, pneumonia, respiratory arrest, having a ventilator breathe for her, and now that she is finally back home, a portable oxygen concentrator that may be her constant companion for the next year or more.

Instead, Brenda was planning to head from her home in Sioux City, IA, to Tempe, AZ, to care for her daughter, Alicia, a kidney donor to her cousin through a paired exchange. Her cousin was in kidney failure, and while Alicia was not a medical match, her gift through a “kidney swap” would be a lifesaver for two patients.

But on the June day that Brenda felt short of breath while walking Bella, her miniature Husky, and then struggled up the five stairs into her home, the caregiver-to-be was about to need lifesaving, too.

A widow since 1994, Brenda’s first call was to Alicia, a hospital nurse. Mom and daughter knew Brenda’s scleroderma, a chronic connective tissue disease that had affected her lungs, would complicate an expected COVID diagnosis.

It did.

At Alicia’s request—and after paying her bills for the upcoming month and putting her computer passwords where Alicia and her brother, Mike, could find them—Brenda drove to the hospital. From there, things became a blur.

Although separated by 1,300 miles, Brenda and her daughter, Alicia, a hospital nurse, check in with each other many times a day. The standing rule is that Brenda has a three-hour window to respond after Alicia leaves a message.

Her scattered memories include texting her daughter “ICU” and feeling tangled in tubes and wires. And when she heard the word “ventilator,” she said to herself, “OK, God, I surrender. You are in charge.”

But Brenda recalls this clearly: “I couldn’t breathe. I just wanted air. It was like drowning … all day long. They keep increasing your oxygen to help, but it doesn’t help much.”

Alicia also felt helpless. With 1,300 miles between she and her intubated mom, her nurse’s training had her picturing far too many worst-case scenarios.

“As a nurse, I knew COVID protocols and that I couldn’t be with her no matter where I lived,” Alicia said. “But as her daughter, not being physically present was hard.”

Brenda wrote in her CaringBridge Journal: “Going through this day by day, it doesn’t seem like I’m making too much progress. But when I talk to friends, they think I’m doing much better. I cannot wait until I don’t need this oxygen anymore.”

For updates, Alicia called the nurses’ station twice a day, factoring in time-zone differences, her own schedule and preparation for the upcoming kidney swap. She played out in her mind everything that might go wrong until, finally, there was some good news: Brenda’s sedation was being lessened, and she was following voice commands.

Feeling more hopeful, Alicia and Mike were still surprised to receive this text from their mom at 3:56 p.m. July 3: “I’m awake. Love you guys.” Next came a request for Alicia to post an update on Brenda’s CaringBridge site, because Brenda had forgotten her password.

Alicia had started the CaringBridge site when Brenda entered the hospital. With  friends at past jobs in the meat-packing industry and the U.S. Postal Service, and family as far away as Mexico, where Brenda’s late husband, Narciso, had grown up, Alicia couldn’t possibly keep everyone updated.

“I’m thankful that Mom and I discussed how to communicate with everyone about her health battle,” Alicia said. “I had her check CaringBridge to make sure her story was worded as she wanted, and that night she saw your thoughts and comments. The next morning, she was on life support.”

During the time Brenda was on a ventilator, Alicia provided near daily CaringBridge updates. Knowing her mother’s deep faith, she also asked for prayers, which were delivered in abundance.

Brenda, with her faithful companion, Bella, said she is thankful for the support of her CaringBridge community. “Since I’ve been home from the hospital, people have said, ‘We’re so happy CaringBridge is there,’” she said. “They felt like a part of it. It drew them in.”

Brenda returned home after 21 days, albeit tethered to an oxygen machine. Now she writes her own Journal updates, including this one from Aug. 6, after the successful kidney swap: “Thank you, Lord, for keeping Alicia and my niece safe.”

Stable health for her favorite kidney donor and recipient—Alicia is back at work, and her cousin may share her own story in the future—is inspiring Brenda to not feel overwhelmed by the long-haul effects of COVID.

Walking Bella, getting in her customary 10,000 steps a day and riding her electric bike are still a ways off. But Brenda’s focus is nonetheless on gratitude. “I took air, and breath, for granted,” she said. “But I am now so grateful and so thankful for every minute and every day.”

  • linda Froiland

    wow!! God must really have some plans for you!! You surrendered and He took over. Praise to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we think or ask.

  • Mary Amighi

    My heart goes out to you. With Our Lord NOTHING is impossible or too great! I speak to your mountain that “By his stripes you are healed.” God bless you and your family and may He have mercy on this world and eradicate this virus. I can see your faith is strong.

  • Lucy Huang, RN

    Thank you for sharing your story. Wish all of America get to read your story and understand the importance of wearing a mask properly and maintaining social distance for the health of all people regardless of age, sex, ethinicity and race. Also the willingness to get vaccinated. It’s sad how soon people forget about infectious diseases from the past, such as polio, measles, chicken pox, ….

  • Deb Rhodes

    So happy to read your story and to see your doing well!! God Bless!????

  • Nancy DeMilio

    Brenda, Thank you for sharing your story. I am in tears when I think about the world we now live in. God is with you and your family. May God continue to bless you on your journey to restored health. And may God bless all of us by taking this pandemic from us.

  • Debi Breeden

    Brenda, I stumbled upon this story of your battle with covid. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into how it affected your life. I don’t know you but wanted you to know that by just reading about your struggle with this dreaded illness it has given me a little bit of hope for the future. I am warmed by the circle of care and love, even at a distance, that you have surrounding you.

  • Nitzy Black

    Brenda, Thank you so much for sharing your story of hope. Blessings & strength to you and your family for a FULL recovery.

  • Ronda

    Thank GOD for a wonderful outcome..God Bless you always

  • Courtney

    Bless you, Brenda. So thankful for your progress, and your faith. Praying for your strength, endurance and continued healing. Courtney

  • Mrs. Carol Hornbeck Chancey

    Such a successful story, the Lord was surely with you.

  • Carole Bloom( a stranger to you but comforting your success)

    The power of love and great doctors, nurses, and your daughters constant knowledge and attention brought you back .., here’s to more healthy prayers ahead!

  • Merle R McGarrett

    Thank you for sharing your story . I wish you every day better than the day before. Bella is so happy and grateful, too!

  • Toby Ann Mann

    Brenda, keep hanging in there. What a horrible experience for you. Keeping you in my prayers for a full recovery. This disease has been a nightmare for you, our country and the world.

  • paula berman israel

    Although I don’t know you, I so appreciate you sharing your story- An inspiration to us all. May you continue on a postive, loving and healthy path to recovery.

  • Rachel Levy

    I’m so happy that your battle with COVID had a wonderful outcome. Congratulations on your recovery!

  • Grace Reimer

    We have a miracle working God!!

  • Pam Webb+

    I loved reading your story especially because I am also a woman of faith. In fact, I am a retired Episcopal priest in Virginia. I have been going to the Florida Keys for winters ever since I retired. I am almost phobic about cold weather, snow, ice, etc. unfortunately I came down with severe type A flu in late January last year. I checked into a motel alone and stayed there a week to get well. No one had heard the word “covid” at that time and there was certainly no testing. Come to find out this Fall that my pulmonologist has diagnosed me as having “Covid fibrosis” on top of the flu. I have been treated for asthma before of this current diagnosis. I am now on Advair and Albuterol. This past weekend I started struggling with my breathing again. I am now only walking less than 1000 steps a day. I am not out of breath when I am inactive so all I do is sit and read, watch movies and tv, talk on phone and work on computer. I am also overeating and gaining much more than the “covid 19”! I am very down and anxious and frustrated not to be able to get vaccinated yet. Thank you for sharing your story. It seems to me that our emotional health is not being addressed often. The whole focus seems to be on our physical health. Agree????

  • Judy Jones

    Our God is a great God. I am so glad you are on the way to feeling better. I hope you will be out walking Bella when you feel like it. You and your family are in my prayers.

  • Susan Maresco

    This is very encouraging and moving account of covid survival. Thank you, Brenda, for still being alive and giving us your story, a complicated one as well.

  • Michael joe danna

    So happy for you. Mt daughter also had COVID and had phenomena . She contacted in in March and was able to go back to work part time in july. He faith on Gods got her through. We will continue to pray for you. God Bless

  • Jan Beekman

    What a heart-warming and hopeful story. Thank God for Caring Bridge! It allows people like Brenda to keep her loved ones informed with just one place to write – and then one click of the button. And she gets to control who her friends and family are who can access her posts. I love it. Thanks for sharing her story with all of us who love and support the Caring Bridge site. <3 God bless Brenda and Alicia and her cousin. <3

  • Chaplain Marsha Taylor

    God morning, thank you for sharing your victory testimony. It is heartfelt, and a demonstration of God’s love towards you and your daughter. I love and bless your journey.Chaplain Marsha Taylor

  • Cheryl

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story of your fight to get healthy and the devotion of your daughter. The power of love and prayers. Bless you both with continued good health.

  • Sandy Cross

    I was so moved by your courage and faith as you shared your story with the Caring Bridge community. Yours is a truly amazing “love story” between Mother and daughter! Bless you both as you continue the healing process.

  • Toni Roman

    Praising God with you for your amazing testimony and praying for your continued healing! God is good!

  • Penny Dymianiw

    Bless you for sharing your journey. God is good. I am presently in hospital with covid.

  • Beverly Miller

    Thank you for sharing. May our Lord choose to heal you completely.

  • Sherill Barnett

    I am so moved by your story. Your faith kept you going. Take care of yourself and good luck.

  • Judi Ohlman

    Beautiful story of a woman filled with God’s strength.

  • Michele Stephens

    Such an amazing testimony in God’s healing power!! He is always faithful to His promises. Continue to get stronger physically, mentally and especially spiritually. Blessings to you and your beautiful family

  • Donna Adams

    This is an amazing story! This is a great witness to the power of God, and that he is a healer!Thank you for sharing. My prayers are with you and your family.God Bless you

  • Donna Farmer

    You are strong and resilient-I believe you will find a way through your limitations. You are a testimony to us all! Gratitude!

  • Linda Schanz

    I believe in the power of prayer and God’s Grace. Praying for your complete recovery. It’s a blessing to hear stories like yours, especially since I lost a friend to COVID.

  • B. Elaine Barnett

    Enduring anything w/o a faith in God is most challenging! God came to earth that we might know and receive eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. in the past 4 months I have witnessed God’s answers to prayers for 2 missionary friends who were fighting Cancer and a serious knee infection. One travelled from Sudan and the other from Uganda and God miraculously healed them both. I also “lost” my husband to cancer, while serving in Kenya ,though he wasn’t cured, he was healed as he suffers no more and is enjoying the bliss of Heaven. I still miss him a lot but am at peace knowing that 1 day, we will be reunited, praising God for His faithfulness through it all. America has a serious cancer brewing in its bones ,we NEED to Bless GOD again too! He will heal our land if we return to Him and repent of our sins. Phil. 1:6

  • Kathie Green

    What an inspirational story ,praying that Brenda’s recovery continues , praying you continue to know God’s presence in a powerful way ,God is so Good ,even in such difficult times God is Sovereign,His plans are Good. Romans 15:13 ??

  • Corrine Molling

    I will pray for you to keep improving. We need to always remember God is in control. He has plans for you may feel his presence every day!

  • Jill Myllykangas

    May God be given the GLORY!! What a wonderful read. May God continue to heal you Brenda!! Dealing with this CoVid with my ex-husband of 33 years. Our poor daughter a hospice nurse in charge of decisions. Been on ventilator since Dec. 21 and Friday may be decision time for taking him off life support. The lungs don’t seem to be working. But he loves Jesus…so death isn’t the end of his story.

  • Carrie Cervenka Woodridge, Illinois

    Glory be to God. I pray you all continue on a healthy path.

  • Trudy

    So happy to hear this good news We thank the Lord for His grace

  • Mary Bowman

    Your story is inspiring. I will keep you in my prayers.

  • Mary A Carter

    God bless you for sharing your covid experience & struggles. Your an inspiration to others. May you soon enjoy a full recovery.

  • Carol A Johnson

    Wow, and blessings on you, Brenda, from Minnesota, as you continue your step-by-step recovery! (You can find me on Facebook at Carol Schisler Johnson, though I am not currently able to comment, only emojies!) All the best….

  • Gene Veltkamp

    As a fellow COVID survivor, spent 66 says in hospital, and am also on a concentrator for oxygen, I can relate to your story. I too had the feeling of drowning, because could not get breath, but did not have to get ventilated. Never the less, the virus is very real and malicious, and is very hard to fight.I have lost friends to COVID, and sometimes I deal with “survivors” guilt, meaning how come I survived when others in better shape physically did not. So keep the faith, God has something for you to do in this world yet. He will show you when His timing is right. You story is a refreshing wave of genuine fresh air in this stale society.

  • Mary Trout

    Oh My,,,,shocked to read this news,,,, Brenda I am very,very sorry you suffered thru COVID,,,,I thank God for your health…May you have complete recovery…Thank you Alicia for the kidney transplant,,,My niece gave her sister a kidney 12 years ago,,,I checked the Beautiful wedding pictures over and over for you,,,now I have an answer,,,A Beautiful couple an wedding,,But than I always felt them to be so very SpecialMany prayers for continue recovery Brenda,,,I am so available if for any reason,do not hesitate to call me,,,God Bless. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Patricia Pete

    Thank you for sharing your story Brenda. You’re such a wonderful person and I pray you continue to get better.

  • LaVon E Ferguson

    Brenda , I just read about your battle with the virus. I thank the Lord that you are on the road to recovery. I think about the past good times we shared in Hawaii and elsewhere. I miss all of that. Prayers also to Alicia and hope for her complete recovery.