HOUSTON - A woman from the Galena Park area is thrilled to be home for the holidays. Last year at this time, she was in the hospital fighting for her life and on a transplant list because of COVID-19.
We caught up with her at Levy Park in Houston to learn more about her miraculous story.
Krystal Taylor has come a long way in the past year. She was hospitalized with pneumonia from COVID-19 in July 2021 and spent seven months in the hospital. Doctors at Memorial Hermann had to place her in a medically induced coma to try to save her life.
"I was on ECMO for three months, and you're only supposed to be on it for two weeks. They tried to let my lungs recover, but my right lung was completely blown out from steroids and my left lung was 97% scarred, so I only had 3% oxygen in my whole body," states Krystal.
Several months after her hospitalization, it was time to see if Krystal's lungs were strong enough to sustain her.
"They woke me up before my birthday on October 20 and I refused to think it was my birthday. They're saying ‘happy birthday’ and I said ‘no wait, no,’ I was really fighting them about it. It was hard," exclaims Krystal. She thought it was still summertime! Also, a devastating thing at the time, Krystal's body was so traumatized; she suffered amnesia and didn't recognize her family.
"It really altered my state of mind I didn't remember I had a husband. I didn't remember I had kids. I remembered my mom and sisters, but it took me a while to remember about husband and kids," explains Krystal.
Luckily, within a few weeks, her memory made a full comeback, but her lungs didn't.
"That's when my doctor told me without this transplant, you will never leave this hospital," says Krystal.
"We know within a few weeks if someone is going to recover from severe COVID pneumonia or not. The way I tell people is it's like having a bad wound when you scrape your knee, sometimes it is really deep and you end up with scar tissue. So, something similar to that in the lungs. So based on her exams and everything else, it looked like she had severe scarring unfortunately, from that," states Dr. Soma Jyothula, Krystal's doctor and the Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Center at Memorial Hermann, as well as an Associate Professor at UTHealth Houston.
He explains to us that Krystal needed a supplementation of 100% oxygen to walk around ICU, so doctors knew she needed new lungs, and she needed them quickly. She was taken on and off the transplant list because of blood infections.
"We sat down with her. She was very motivated obviously! Her biggest thing was wanting to go back home out of the hospital with her kids. She spent Christmas and Thanksgiving and her birthday actually in the hospital, so her New Year's gift literally on the second of this year, she got an offer, and she got a lung transplantation, and she actually did phenomenally well. Within a couple of weeks. She was out of the hospital, home breathing room air, and back with a family," says Dr. Jyothula.
Krystal didn't have any pre-existing health conditions, so there's no way to know why COVID scarred her lungs so severely, but it attacked her other family members, as well. She didn't know it at the time, but her beloved grandparents were hospitalized the same week as she was, but they both quickly lost their battle to it.
"They were actually more like my parents. I grew up with them. So, I have so many memories of them and that's what I'm so thankful for the memories and also, they were super involved with my kids. So, I tell them you know we have the best memories with them," says Krystal.
She says her loving husband became her caretaker, as she could do little for herself.
She went through extensive rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann to gain her strength back after spending months in bed.
Dr. Jyothula is happy to see her progress.
"I get a chance to see her kids when they come with her in the clinic, and it's so good to see how heartwarming it is for them to see their mom with them leading a normal life, going to restaurants and things like that and for her to be able to be with them actually, so it's incredible actually," says a smiling Dr. Jyothula.
Krystal says she has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.
"Just being home with my family and just so you know, looking at everyone, we're all healthy, just being united with them, it's the best," says Krystal.
Her children are 13, 11, and 7 years old, and beyond thrilled that their mom is home with them now. Krystal is still busy keeping up with her anti-rejection medications and has been able to go from taking 23 pills a day to 17. She's happy though to take those medicines that allow her to be home for the holidays and enjoy a second chance at life.
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