By Sahar Chmais
In a curious case of a severe COVID-19 infection, 15-year-old Katelynn Ramirez’s health was shaken, but it reaffirmed her positive and eccentric cheerleader spirit.
Unlike her classmates, Katelynn went home for the winter break to spend her time off living in the hospital with only her mom by her side. This Hays County teen’s fever reached 105 degrees for days on end and her oxygen levels dropped down to a critical point with more complications piling on top. Yet the curious part about her severe COVID-19 infection is that Katelynn has no underlying health conditions.
In fact, Katelynn is the perfect candidate to remain unscathed by the coronavirus – athletic, no underlying diseases and young. Yet her health quickly declined after contracting COVID-19. She received a positive test result on Dec. 22; her hospital stay began on Dec. 28 and lasted until Friday, Jan. 8.
Before going to the hospital, Katelynn was struggling with COVID-19 symptoms of high fever, fatigue and low oxygen levels. According to her mother, Christina Meredith, over-the-counter medication was not working.
The doctors at Dell Children’s Medical Center were unsure why her daughter felt such severe symptoms. This peculiar case made Katelynn the first patient at this children’s hospital to receive Remdesivir, according to Meredith.
Remdesivir is a treatment option for COVID-19 used in ongoing clinical trials or under Federal Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorizations. The treatment is typically used on children 12 years and older sick enough to be in the hospital, according to Boston Children’s Hospital.
Throughout her 10-day hospital stay, Katelynn was moved onto a high-flow nasal cannula breathing system because her oxygen levels dipped too low. There were some improvements in certain symptoms, as her fever eventually subsided, but even with the little victories came some losses.
“In the beginning,” Meredith detailed her daughter’s journey, “she could only say a few words at a time; she would get so winded she could not even get up to bathroom. But once she started the high flow oxygen, she turned a corner where her breathing got better.”
Katelynn’s fever went down and her breathing improved, but it was then that her heart rate decreased to the 30s and 40s when she would sleep. With the lowered heart rate came low blood pressure.
The stay was not only tough on Katelynn. Her mother was there all along, suffering in silence. Once Meredith entered the hospital she had two choices: stay indefinitely without leaving, or leave without coming back in. This policy is in place to protect against the spread of the virus.
“Mom mode kicks in and I think that I’m here and I’m not going anywhere,” Meredith said.
So mom stayed and could not see her family because no one else could be there. One night, a nurse caught Meredith silently crying, shielding Katelynn from her worry and pain.
“Sometimes being locked in this room I have a mental breakdown but I continue to contact my friends,” Meredith explained her silent struggle. “One nurse caught me crying one night and she is so compassionate. She helped me get past these couple of days; I had a person to hug inside of these walls. I was able to sit next to real person and tell her how I feel outside of Kat, because I want to hold these things in from her.”
Like mother like daughter. Both tried their best to keep spirits high during the stay. In every word Meredith spoke, there was always hope for the better and praise for the support she received.
The family is receiving support from inside and outside of the hospital walls. Katelynn’s stay was at least partially covered by insurance, but there are other costs the family knows will come that insurance cannot cover. For example, Katelynn will need to rebuild her strength after an exhausting stay and her insurance does not fully pay for physical therapy.
Family and friends banded together to get some funds toward Katelynn’s recovery. Charisa McBee, Meredith’s best friend, organized a GoFundMe page under the name Katelynn Ramirez, COVID Relief, which has received more than $5,000 in donations.
Neighbors and friends have even been dropping off food for Meredith’s husband and kids who are at home.
Meredith’s sister-in-law also created a t-shirt fundraiser where funds will help cover costs for the family in a time where Meredith is out of a job. Since there will be at least a two-month recovery period, Meredith will have to be by Katelynn’s side, unable to work.
“I’m so overwhelmed with the community and everybody that has been behind us,” Meredith said. “The generosity of people in the small town of Kyle and so many have pulled together all over the world anonymously donating to a 15-year-old. I don’t know what else to do but say thanks. We will forever be indebted.”
The road to a full recovery is still far and Katelynn will not be able to attend school this semester. She does not let this fact get her down.
According to McBee, who is in constant contact with the family, she is happy to be home.
“She knows she still can’t do much when she gets home, but she wants to see her dog Zoe, brother and dad,” McBee told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch.
While the family is ecstatic to be together at home, especially now that Katelynn’s dad can now see her face-to-face instead of standing outside of the hospital window to catch a glimpse of his daughter, they have a serious message for people.
“It could happen to anybody,” Meredith said, drawing from her horrific experience. “I recommend people wearing a mask. You don’t have to have underlying symptoms; you don’t have to be over 60. COVID does not discriminate any age or race or anyone. We just want to keep the word out there. Everybody wear a mask and stay #Katstrong.”