When Jamie Waddell first tested positive for COVID-19 in August, she was much sicker than she had expected. After 10 days she felt better and went back to school and work. But a few weeks later, she noticed she was having trouble walking down the street without feeling bad. Soon she couldn’t speak without losing her breath. On Labor Day, she was so ill that she went to the emergency room, where she was told she had sepsis, pneumonia, and heart failure.
“Based on the fact that I was feeling worse and worse, I guess my heart function had probably declined for the whole week, and by the time I got to the ER I was septic,” said Waddell, 36. years old, a nurse. of Springfield, Illinois, tells TODAY.com. “They did an echocardiogram. My heart function was really weak. I was in heart failure.
feeling bad when walking
In early August, Waddell and her husband were preparing to go on vacation and tested positive for COVID-19. She was vaccinated and boosted and felt surprised at how sick she felt.
“Aches, fatigue, fever, breathing issues, sinus congestion – I was sick for about 10 days before I started feeling better,” she says. “I started to feel better. I was back at work. In fact, I was going to school and I started.
After returning to work and school on August 28, she took walks, which she usually did for five to eight kilometers a day. But when she was about half a mile from her house, she began to struggle.
“I felt horrible, like very weak. I was walking down the street saying, ‘Oh my God, don’t pass out,’” she recalled. “It’s unusual for me. I am quite active.
At first, she was worried about pushing herself too hard after recently having COVID-19.
“Maybe I took too long a walk. It was pretty hot that day,” she said. “I didn’t think about it and went to work the next day.”
Two days later, she was coughing and in pain and asked her doctor to do a chest x-ray, which came back normal. She stopped working for two days and went to her local urgent care clinic. She has not tested positive for COVID-19 or the flu.
“My vitals on that visit were a little off. My heart rate was a little high. I had a fever,” she recalled. “I got home and basically fell asleep.”
But his symptoms intensified. She experienced body aches, coughing, “extremely bad” fatigue and vomiting.
“At that moment I knew something was wrong. You’re not getting better, you just feel bad,” she said. “You can barely move.”
That’s when Waddell went to the emergency room.
“My blood pressure and oxygen levels were really low,” she says. Almost immediately they could tell something was wrong.
“My lactic acid was high, which is a sign of sepsis, and they did a CT scan, and I had pretty severe pneumonia,” she says. “That’s about the last thing I remember. I woke up 10 days later in Chicago.
Doctors suspected COVID-19 caused myocarditis in Waddell, when the heart muscle became inflamed.
Myocarditis and COVID-19
For decades, cardiologists have tried to understand why some young people suffer from myocarditis after a viral infection. COVID-19 is also known to cause illness, even in seemingly healthy people, Dr. Bow “Ben” Chung, an advanced heart failure specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine who treated Waddell.
He explains that before the pandemic, a number of viruses – such as adenovirus, coxsackievirus and parvovirus – which usually cause a mild infection sometimes caused “a very significant heart failure reaction”. But it’s “still very unclear” why heart failure occurs in some patients and not in others.
By the time Waddell reached her local hospital, doctors had to act quickly to support her. They implanted an Impella, a temporary device to help his heart pump blood. Patients with heart failure normally need help with the left side of the heart where the Waddell device was placed. But her doctors noticed that the right side of her heart was also struggling, so they implanted another Impella specially made for that side.
“The right side of the heart is very often overlooked. It’s also the hardest side to manage,” Dr. Christopher Lawrence, a cardiovascular surgeon at SIU Medicine, part of Southern Illinois University, told TODAY.com. “When we put the Impella on her right side, … literally within minutes she just started urinating, which is a good sign that her organs are actually getting good blood flow, and that was just a cool thing. .”
But Springfield doctors were still worried about Waddell’s condition. They thought she would need a new heart, so she was transferred to Chung’s care at the University of Chicago, one of the few transplant centers in the country.
“The amount of life support she needed when she arrived at the University of Chicago was about the most life support anyone could do,” said specialist Dr. Abdul Hafiz. structural heart disease at SIU Medicine at TODAY.com. “His heart and lungs were basically not working at the time.”
Chung adds, “Anyone who is at that level of resuscitation, you would think of a heart transplant for them because there are a million machines and wires and tubes coming out of the patient. You think the only way out of the hospital is to simply replace (the heart). “
But after having the two temporary Impella devices implanted, Waddell slowly began to improve to the point where it looked like she wouldn’t need a transplant.
“We were amazed,” Chung says. “It was miraculous. … Jamie was listed for a heart transplant. … If a heart transplant offer had come for her, we might have even accepted the offer.
After waking up in a hospital room in Chicago, Waddell slowly regained his strength and began to think clearly. Then she learned what she had been through.
“It was really surprising to hear that my heart was going so badly. Again, nothing that I expected given my lifestyle,” she says. “It’s shocking to go from a very active person with no health history to need a new heart.”
In some ways, his recovery has been faster than expected.
“I was pumping my own blood and breathing my own oxygen, and I was released three days later,” Waddell says. “I was in really bad shape and then all of a sudden I wasn’t anymore.”
Waddell lost a lot of muscle during his hospital stay – almost three weeks in total. She could walk, but it was difficult, and she started physical therapy. Now Waddell is seeing a cardiologist and needs some medication. She hopes her story encourages people to seek help when something is wrong and to rest when they are sick.
“I work too much. So it’s definitely something that, after being sick, makes you realize that if you’re not feeling well, you should take time to rest,” says Waddell. what he can do.”