116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — After spending over 50 days in the hospital for treatment COVID-19 — which included use of a special lifesaving machine to help add oxygen so she could breath — Samantha Morris, 24, will get to spend Christmas with her family.
Morris was discharged this week from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids in enough time to see her 5-month-old son, Ryder, just in time for the holidays.
“A lot of the doctors were questioning if that would work, but I pushed through and was determined to be home for Christmas,” Morris said.
She was admitted to the hospital Nov. 2 after having a headache for a few days and then testing positive for the virus. When she went to an urgent care clinic, the doctor said she was worse than what they were able to help with and she was sent to the hospital in an ambulance instead.
Morris, who also has asthma, is not vaccinated. Though she is out of the hospital, she and her son and boyfriend are living with her parents in Center Point until she regains more strength. She is also still on oxygen.
“I get winded walking to the bathroom,” Morris said. “I have to sit and take a break.”
Iowa reported 823 patients hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 last week, marking the first time since Dec. 12, 2020, that coronavirus hospitalizations were at or above 800. According to the state public health’s weekly coronavirus report, those not fully vaccinated account for 88 percent of patients in intensive care and 81.5 percent of all patients hospitalized for COVID-19.
Morris said the first couple of weeks in the hospital were fairly mild. Then on Nov. 13, hospital staff said she needed to go to the intensive care unit because her health had taken a turn for the worse. She had pneumonia.
On Nov. 16, she was put under and ventilated. She was also put on an ECMO machine — which works by inserting a plastic tube into a vein or artery of a patient and allows for a patient’s blood to flow out into an artificial lung outside the body. The machine is typically a last-resort treatment for non-elderly patients and there are four hospitals in the state that have one, including St. Luke’s.
Doctors told Morris she was the youngest patient in the adult ICU during the pandemic to be on ECMO and she was the first they had seen in years able to be awake and walk while on it.
“There was a good week and a half that I don’t remember,” she said. “I woke up to one of the doctors talking to me and saying there was a good chance I wasn’t going to make it because of how bad my lungs were. I called my mom and told her the doctor said I was going to die and that was terrifying.”
Morris’ mother, Susan, balanced visiting and helping care for Ryder. Morris’ boyfriend got sick as well. Morris’ grandmother also helped with the baby while Susan visited her daughter.
“I just knew that I needed to be there for her and I was her support person,” Susan Morris said. “When she had rough days, I had rough days. It was scary, especially when you get the phone call from a doctor telling you your daughter could die. No parent ever wants to hear those words.”
Other than Susan, other immediate family members were able to visit every now and then, including Ryder.
“That was super tough,” Morris said. “I didn’t know when I could see my son or if I could see him,” she said.
“They allowed a support visit because they thought that would help her,” Susan added.
Morris said when she was leaving the intensive care unit, a doctor said to her, “Enjoy your second life.”
“It’s hard to see it that way because I went through it and lived in it, but it’s still hard to take in,” she said. “Because I don’t remember the worst parts. It’s all a blur.”
There is no timeline to Morris’ recovery and no telling how long she will experience symptoms. The process is day by day, Morris said.
“A couple times a week, I’ll go back to the hospital to do outpatient physical and occupational therapy,” she said. “I have to go to a wound nurse for the trach hole and ECMO site. I also have other doctor appointment, checkups with the lung doctor. It’s a take it as it goes type of thing.”
Morris still is not sure if she will get the COVID-19 vaccination.
“I was not vaccinated, just a personal choice, and I am not sure going forward what I’m going to do and that’s where I’ll leave that,” she said.
Morris said the main thing she is looking forward to being out of the hospital is being able to spend time with her family.
“I’ve always been a family person and now that I’ve got a little one of my own, it’s nice to be home now for all of his firsts,” she said. “I missed his first Thanksgiving but I get his first Christmas … I couldn’t have gotten through this without everyone at the hospital.”
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