A lot can happen in a year but, for Jazmin Kirkland, time has stood still since August 3rd, 2021.
That’s the day the Bells, Texas mom-of-three checked into the emergency room because she was having trouble breathing. She and her family had contracted COVID-19 while on vacation in South Carolina. While her family had mild symptoms and recovered, Jazmin quickly took a turn for the worse.
Two weeks later, the previously-healthy 34 year old was moved to intensive care and placed on a ventilator.
“I started to pray and was like, ‘God, please don’t let me die… just let me wake up. Let me be here for my kids and my husband,'” Jazmin recalled. “And I just texted my husband and I said, ‘I love you. I promise I’m going to keep fighting.'”
On September 10th, Jazmin was in such bad shape that her doctors placed her on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (ECMO). This machine allows the heart and lungs to rest and heal by doing their job for them. Most patients only stay on this machine for two or four weeks, but Jazmin relied on it for the next 188 days.
“It’s hard on the body because a lot of times when you’re looking at patients going on ECMO, they’re the sickest of the sick,” said Brandon Davis, cardiovascular intensive care unit manager at Texoma Medical Center.
Jazmin was placed into a medically-induced coma for the next few months. In November, doctors told her she’d need a lung transplant but had too many antibodies to survive the surgery. Her body would likely reject a new organ.
“I was told for so long that the only way I could live a full life was to get a lung transplant, so whenever I was declined and they told me I wasn’t getting a lung transplant, I think that was the hardest hit,” said Jazmin. “I didn’t know what that meant, like am I going to stay in the hospital? Am I not going to get to be with my kids, to see them and go play and run with them?”
Faced with a seemingly lose-lose situation, Jazmin turned to her faith and refused to stop fighting. After about 100 days in the hospital, she started to regain consciousness. She improved steadily each day, and her heart and lungs began to heal. Then, eight long months after she checked into the hospital, she was taken off the ECMO machine.
Jazmin got off the ventilator in July, then began the difficult task of relearning how to breathe, walk, and eat on her own.
“For the body to have to even relearn how to walk, that’s a huge undertaking, or even taking that first sip of your water with your own hands — sometimes it takes a huge effort and sometimes it’s weeks and months to even get a patient there,” said Brandon. “So for someone to come as far as she did, it’s really amazing.”
Jazmin’s hard work and perseverance paid off on August 9th 2022, 370 days after she first entered the hospital, when she finally went home!
Jazmin’s kids are now ages 2, 7, and 10. They’ve all gotten so used to seeing her in the hospital that the youngest barely recognized his own mother when she came home.
“He was 1 when I went into the hospital and he sees the hospital as, that’s mom’s house,” she explained. “He was confused. He didn’t recognize me because I wasn’t in my PJs or my hospital gown.”
Now that she’s on the mend, Jazmin is praising the medical professionals whose expertise saved her life. She’s also incredibly grateful for the supportive family who never left her side, even when they had to FaceTime instead of being with her in person. In fact, when her husband, Kody Kirkland, was offered a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order, he outright refused to sign it.
“She told me the story about it and she said, ‘Your family has taught us a lot about not giving up and love and family because your family fought so hard for you and never, never gave up,” Jazmin said of one of her doctors. “Never accepted that you were going to die.’ That’s how we are.”
Jazmin still needs physical therapy and oxygen for now, but she’s more than ready to get back to her life. In time, doctors say she’ll make a full recovery!
Share this story to celebrate Jazmin’s return to her family.
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