Covid nearly killed her. She wonders if her life will be the same as others.

Tionna Hairston (26 years old) survived strokes, cardiac arrest and brain damage. This was in defiance of doctors' expectations. They were wrong once, and she hopes to prove them wrong again.

Covid nearly killed her. She wonders if her life will be the same as others.

EDEN, N.C. - Tionna Hairston was making her third attempt at removing the cap from a water bottle. The 26-year old was still wearing her nightgown and needed to take her medication. It was Friday, February 26, 2012. Since her heart attack and subsequent strokes, the pills have been a regular part of her life.

Hairston's strokes destroyed her fine motor skills and made it difficult to grasp anything that requires a tight grip.

Hairston, who spent 136 days in hospital and in-patient rehabilitation centers, has overcome much more than just bottle caps. Stacy Peatross is her mom and she lives in the small town near the Virginia border with Hairston. She reminds her often of this.

"You got it. Turn," Peatross stated, moving over to Hairston's couch. "Concentrate and believe that you can do it."

Hairston wrapped her fingers around the bottle. The top didn’t move.

Peatross stated, "It's okay." "You're doing it. It's your own proof.

Peatross and Hairston were both afflicted by Covid in May 2020. When Peatross started to feel better, she assumed that her daughter, who had a mild case of Covid, would be able to get well too.

Hairston, however, developed blood clots. This virus can increase the likelihood of hairston developing them for reasons not fully understood. These rarely occur in healthy young people such as Hairston.

The clots caused a stroke and, three days later, cardiac arrest. Hairston's heart stopped beating for half an hour. This left her without oxygen. A medical team tried to revive her. She was not expected to live for more than a few hours, let alone walk, talk, or smile again.

"The initial thought was that she would never regain functional neurologic status," Dr. LaSean, a Winston-Salem hospitalist, said about Hairston's care after she was discharged from the ICU.

Robinson said that if Hairston survived her hospitalization, doctors feared she would need "total care for her rest of her life, likely at a long-term care ventilator center."

Hairston was only beginning to realize her dreams before she fell ill. She was moving out of her stepfather and mother's home to her apartment. She met her first boyfriend.

She was working as a cashier in a restaurant to try to save enough money so she could return to culinary school.

Since then, her dreams have been drastically altered. She now wants to be able read multiple lines without feeling tired. She would like to be able write without stopping to recall which direction letter "S" is going. She hopes to one day drive again.


Her caregivers are certain she will. Hairston is assisted by a certified nursing assistant, provided by Medicaid, five days per week. She assists her with daily tasks and balance and strength exercises as prescribed by her occupational and physical therapists. Hairston also plays cognitive-strengthening games.

It frustrates me that I have to be like this. Hairston stated, "I usually think to my self, 'I am not like that.'" It seemed like I had retraced a thousand steps.

Two years after the global pandemic coronavirus was declared, its disruptions are less apparent to those around her.

Recent changes to the federal health officials' metrics have resulted in indoor masque not being recommended for most Americans. Some vaccine mandates have been dropped. In his State of the Union Address this month, President Joe Biden called it a "new moment" in which Americans can "safely return to more normal routines."

For Hairston and other Covid survivors, however, normal feels distant.

Nearly 80 million Covid cases were counted in the U.S. It is unknown how many people suffer long-term health issues from the disease. Experts estimate that they could amount to the million.

Their health problems have an impact on their families. Peatross was a nurse when Hairston returned home. She worked part-time to help Hairston regain basic skills like taking a bath, getting up stairs, and picking up sandwiches.


It was exhausting. Hairston was so discouraged by trying to put socks on her bed that she began crying with her mom.

Peatross stated, "This is the most overlooked part of the damage that this has done to her and our lives."

Hairston's remarkable recovery has been impressive, even though doctors once asked her family if she wanted to be taken off life support.

Hairston is able to do all that doctors thought she couldn't. Hairston, along with Gregory Link, took a stroll through the park and decided to pick up her pace.

She called out, "Come on slow poke," and grinned at Link.

"She was coding"

Link, a pastor didn't realize that Hairston was just a day from death when he visited her in the hospital on June 9, 2020. He was dressed head-to-toe with a clown suit and had no idea what it meant.

Peatross had seen something frightening in her eyes, and she admitted her earlier in the week. Hairston's eyes were drifting in opposite directions.

Doctors explained that strokes were caused by clots linked to Covid. They were hopeful that she would recover a few days later.

Link arrived in large red and yellow shoes, a rainbow hairstyle, and a polka dots and striped outfit to cheer her up. Doctors assured him that she would soon be released.

Instead, Hairston developed chest pain. Peatross stated that blood clots on her heart were discovered and treated with blood thinners. Hairston got up the next day to go to the bathroom. She collapsed on her way.

To save her daughter, a seemingly endless stream staff members ran into the room. Her prognosis was dire after Hairston's cardiac activity plummeted for 30 minutes. Unresponsive, she was. Her liver and kidneys were failing.

Doctors found extensive damage to her brain after reviewing CT scans a day later. They asked her family what they wanted to do regarding life support.

Peatross tried not to pay attention to her nursing knowledge. She wanted to believe that Hairston had a bright future. She didn't want her suffering, and brain scans showed that she could.

Link tried a different approach.

He asked doctors, "Do you have any good information?"

They didn't. Link set out to find some. Did her brain have any damage?

They did respond, but it wasn't enough to enjoy any quality of living.

Link only needed the "yes" to move forward. After family discussions, it was decided that Hairston would not be taken off life support.

One step forward

Hairston did not show any improvement in the days after her heart attack.

Gregory Hairston, Gregory's oldest brother, said that they were at a point in which "we were literally holding onto faith after being told multiple times that there was no hope for her."

Two weeks later, Hairston celebrated his 25th birthday. There was a breakthrough. Sterling "BB" Hairston, her uncle, visited and noticed that his niece had only one eye open.

He took two steps to his side. Her eye followed him.

"I said, "Tee, you know me. You did. It's your birthday. He said, "Happy birthday baby, I love and miss you." "And she cried when I said that."

Hairston's family felt more optimistic. Peatross kept a journal with salmon-colored pages in her hospital room so that visitors could write letters to her. She could then read them if she woke up.

She did. Peatross also said that other miracles began to occur.

June became July and Hairston's renal function began to improve, which allowed her to stop dialysis. She began to respond to the voices of others. She leaned up to kiss her mom for the first time since July 2020.

Robinson, the hospitalist, felt that it couldn't be explained solely by medicine. Her interest in Hairston's case led her to ask for a switch of patient lists with her colleagues, when Hairston was not assigned to her. This would allow her to continue caring for her youngest Covid case.

She said, "Ofcourse the medical professionals were important. They were needed and required." "Her family was so strong in faith. "I just joined their faith."

Hairston is currently on blood thinners, anti-seizure medication, and has a cardiac defibrillator. Her family was told by doctors that her young age has made it easier for her brains to find new pathways to learn what she's lost.

Because she was vaccinated, she feels safe and protected. She also wants to let other young people know that they are not invincible.

She said, "This can happen to anyone."

She would still like to live in her own apartment one year from now. She hopes to find love in the future.

There are many obstacles to overcome. She still has to overcome some obstacles, such as the cap on her water bottle.

Hairston wore earrings for the first and only time since her illness.

The dangly earrings remained on her head until the end of the evening. She proudly wore them when family members who spent hours at her bedside arrived at her home for dinner.

Hairston sat down at a table. The family sat down at the table and shared taco salad. The family talked about Hairston's time at the hospital. She doesn't remember any of it. They both recalled how relieved they were to discover that Hairston's ability of making fun of her siblings was still intact.

Hairston listened as her sparkling earrings gently moved every time she smiled.

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