Yolanda Murillo is used to overcoming long odds.
As a young woman, she emigrated from Colombia and rebuilt her life in the United States. Later, she became a caregiver to her elderly mother and husband and raised a daughter, Bryanna.
At 69, Yolanda was healthy, active and enjoyed spending time with her family.
Then, over several days, a nagging cough progressively worsened. Bryanna, a registered nurse, became concerned and drove Yolanda to the emergency room. There, Yolanda tested positive for COVID-19.
Bryanna’s quick action may have saved her mother’s life. In the emergency room, Yolanda’s condition nose-dived. Overcome by pneumonia, chills and disorientation, she fell into respiratory failure. Yolanda was connected to a ventilator and later a tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube.
It took a little over a month for Yolanda’s condition to stabilize. Following a recommendation from her mother’s doctors, Bryanna chose Select Specialty Hospital – Palm Beach for Yolanda’s extended healing and recovery.
A physician-led team of nurses, therapists, dietitians and pharmacists created a plan to help Yolanda get back to an independent life.
But first, the team needed to help Yolanda step down from some of the powerful drugs still treating infections and regain clear thinking.
When Yolanda was ready, respiratory therapists began stepping back ventilator settings, determining whether her lungs could handle more work.
Meantime, physical and occupational therapists began a mobility program to improve Yolanda’s overall stamina, coordination and balance. Starting with simple movements, such as sitting in bed and getting into a chair, they worked over the course of several weeks to get her standing on her own two feet.
The combination of increased oxygen and activity further supported her respiratory goals and her tracheostomy was “capped” so air flowed more normally through Yolanda’s mouth and nose. Not long after, it was removed.
It was a key turning point, Yolanda said, because she began to feel recovery was possible.
With the help of dietitians and speech-language pathologists, she passed a swallow study test indicating it was safe to begin returning to typical eating and drinking. Starting with ice chips, Yolanda progressed through increasingly thicker textures of food and thinner liquids until she ate a normal meal.
After the breathing tube was removed, she had “the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.”
Yolanda said that God, prayers and her daughter were key recovery motivators. She’d missed Bryanna’s 35th birthday and was eager to throw a belated celebration for her.
“God, my family and our church family were essential to getting me through this experience,” Yolanda said. “God and Bryanna never left my side.”
After two months, Yolanda met nearly all the goals set for her. She departed for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to continue focus on building strength and stamina to walk. Yolanda looks forward to spending time with family and increased independence.
“Everyone who participated in my care at Select Specialty Hospital – Palm Beach was wonderful – the nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and rehab therapists,” she said. “I’ve learned that enjoying your family is the most important thing and with God, nothing is impossible.”
Several months later, Bryanna was thrilled to let us know her mom was still doing well. They’d celebrated Yolanda’s 70th birthday together – a milestone made all the sweeter given the ordeal they’d endured.
“My mom is a walking miracle of God,” Bryanna said. “I am blessed to spend more time with her.”