With Expert Care, Mother and Daughter Overcome Odds To Beat COVID-19

When Maria Ruiz arrived at Holy Cross Hospital on the evening of January 14 to be treated for COVID-19, her daughter, Patricia Ruiz, was already there — on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit. Also sick with the coronavirus, Patricia had been taken via ambulance to the hospital earlier that day with falling oxygen levels. She didn’t know that her mother had been hospitalized until she woke from sedation three weeks later — on the very same day her mother went home. “It was like my body knew to wake me up that day,” said Patricia.

“Almost every patient on life support must have some sedation so they don’t fight the ventilator,” said Theodore E. Igwebe, MD, Pulmonary Medicine. But the sedatives cause amnesia, which is why Patricia didn’t remember that her mother had “visited” her via video from her own bed in the same hospital.

“Although Maria didn’t require ventilation, she was on high levels of oxygen and received convalescent plasma, antibiotics, and Remdesivir, an antiviral,” said Maria Del Castillo Garcia, MD, a Permanente Medicine Infectious Diseases specialist at Kaiser Permanente, who oversaw her care.

Maria and Patricia's COVID-19 Story

"We are so grateful to Holy Cross. They took care of us and saved our lives,” said COVID-19 survivors Maria (left) and Patricia Ruiz.

Both Maria and Patricia have underlying conditions, including obesity and diabetes, each of which can worsen COVID-19 symptoms. Unfortunately, having both conditions put Maria and Patricia at an even higher risk of developing the most severe illness.

By the time Patricia and Maria were admitted, the hospital had well-established COVID-19 treatment regimens.

The pandemic was not the first time Holy Cross Hospital has been on the frontline of fighting a highly contagious virus. “During the Ebola crisis, we were one of five Maryland hospitals to evaluate patients with Ebola-like symptoms because of our status as a Serious Pathogen Assessment Hospital,” said Yancy Phillips, MD, chief clinical officer, Holy Cross Health. “Creating a special pathogens unit prepared us to handle an exotic virus with minimal risk of transmission to staff or other patients.”

When the first COVID-19 cases in Maryland were diagnosed at Holy Cross Hospital and Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, we were ready. And when the biggest surge hit in May 2020, Holy Cross Hospital treated more COVID-19 patients than any other hospital in Maryland — staying at the forefront of research and treatment.

“Holy Cross Hospital was one of the first hospitals to use dexamethasone, a common steroid, to treat coronavirus patients,” Dr. Igwebe said. “Holy Cross is aligned with cutting-edge research, offering our patients the most innovative and relevant care protocols, and in June 2020, dexamethasone became the first drug confirmed to save lives in a study in the United Kingdom.”

Throughout the pandemic, Holy Cross Health participated in drug trials to identity new treatments such as Remdesivir and anti-inflammatories.

“Our care for COVID-19 patients was on a level with top academic medical centers — even though we are not a university center,” Dr. Igwebe said.

Upon her release from the hospital, Maria went home with supplemental oxygen, but Patricia spent two weeks at a rehabilitation center re-learning how to walk to strengthen muscles weakened during her stay in Intensive Care. “I was terrified that I could not walk, but soon I was able to use a walker,” recalled Patricia. After rehab, Holy Cross Health Home Care and Hospice provided physical therapy to Patricia at home.

Carolyn Rehwoldt, PT, worked with Patricia to exercise hip and core muscles. “Each time we walked, I pushed her a little further, always monitoring her oxygen levels. It takes time for the lungs and body to get stronger — and Patricia did.”

Although most COVID-19 patients recover within a few weeks, some can experience fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, dizziness, palpitations, difficulty breathing, and depression for weeks or months after the infection. “While symptoms generally resolve with time, the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and the lasting symptoms of the illness is by getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Del Castillo Garcia.

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With help from her Holy Cross Health care team, Patricia was able to return to her busy job at a title company in April — less than three months after her admission to Holy Cross Hospital.

“We are so grateful to Holy Cross. They took care of us and saved our lives,” said Maria and Patricia, who recently made a generous donation to the Holy Cross Health Grateful Patient Program. “Through it all, Holy Cross has been there for us.”

If a physician, nurse, or other staff member made a difference in your visit, you can express your thanks by supporting Holy Cross Health. Learn more.