ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - A 13-year-old girl is finally home after a vigorous battle with COVID-19, but the road to get there wasn't an easy one. For 57 days, Augustina was in critical condition in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit from COVID-19.
When she visited her doctor in early June because she wasn’t feeling well, she had no idea she’d be rushed to Children's Hospital of Orange County and spend the next two months fighting for her life.
Augustina was originally admitted to the hospital with respiratory distress and was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly thereafter.
She was initially on high flow nasal canula for supplemental oxygen. Eventually, that was escalated to a BiPAP machine — bi-level positive airway pressure — a machine that pushes much-needed oxygen into a patient’s airway.
Her condition continued to worsen, and she was put on a ventilator to increase her oxygen levels. She was medically sedated for most of her ICU stay in order to tolerate the ventilator.
"She was in critical condition for a long time," said Dr. Jason Knight, medical director of the Josie Y.S. Lee Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at CHOC Children’s Hospital. "There were two different nights during her hospitalization when we thought we might lose her."
At one point, her condition improved thanks to proning and nitric oxide, CHOC officials said.
Eventually, Augustina underwent a tracheostomy, where a surgeon created an opening in her neck to place a tube into her trachea, allowing oxygen to enter the lungs. Once her tracheotomy was in place, she was more awake and the medical staff was able to wean her off ventilator support.
Once she was off her ventilator, the next step was rehabilitation.
Hospital staff cheered as Augustina was discharged from CHOC's Pediatric ICU. There were moments where her care team did not know if she was going to make it through the night. So, when the time came for Augustina to finally be discharged to a local rehabilitation facility as a step toward going home, the entire hospital staff wanted to give her the hero's send-off she deserved.
They created signs, organized gifts and planned a cheer tunnel filled with her favorite staff members holding streamers. The celebration brought tears to Augustina’s eyes.
Augustina leaving CHOC’s PICU, pictured with her physical therapists and child life specialists. (Children's Hospital of Orange County)
After spending a few weeks – and celebrating her 14th birthday – at the rehabilitation facility, Augustina finally went home.
These days, Augustina is back in school, virtually. She is happy to be at home surrounded by family.
Click here to read Augustina's full story.