Debra Payne's story

Debra Payne PatientSuccess Story

In late summer, Debra Payne came down with COVID-19 symptoms – trouble breathing, fever and chest pain.

The 61-year-old’s family drove her to the emergency room.

“The COVID stuff scared me to death,” Debra said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I remember a nurse taking care of me when I couldn’t breathe. She brought me back to life three times.”

Debra later learned that vague memory was related to being placed on a ventilator as the virus sent its perilous course through her body, leading to respiratory failure and bleeding complications.

Unable to liberate from the ventilator, doctors placed airway support and a feeding tube and transferred her to Regency Hospital Cleveland West to continue recovery.

“It was tough to remember where I was because I was confused,” she said. “But ever since waking up at Regency, I worked hard and was grateful to have a second chance at life.”

A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a plan to help Debra get back on her feet.

It began with respiratory therapists gradually dialing back ventilator settings as Debra’s lungs healed.

“Whenever I saw my therapist come in, I knew I was in good hands,” she said.

Still, there were difficult days.

“At first I was ready to give up,” Debra said. “But I said ‘no, it ain’t time for me to give up because I need to get home and take care of my handicapped brother.’”

Within two weeks, Debra liberated from the ventilator. Respiratory and speech therapists collaborated to place a valve in Debra’s tracheostomy that allowed her to speak. It was the key turning point in her journey because that was the moment “I knew I would make it.”

Simultaneously, physical and occupational therapists began a mobility program.

“I helped myself by getting up to go to the bathroom and transferring from a bed to the chair,” she said. “With therapy, I worked up to walking. I’m started coming back to myself, and I feeling better.”

Speech therapists also continued therapeutic exercises to rebuild verbalization, cognitive abilities and swallowing reflexes.

Debra returned to eating regular meals, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Because visitation was curtailed due to the coronavirus, Debra’s family stayed connected through video chats, which the hospital team facilitated.  Her daughter, Latoshia, said she was especially grateful for the regular communication she had with her mom’s care team. It set her mind at ease.

Upon Debra’s discharge she shared, “I have achieved my goals beyond my expectations. I thought I was going on to heaven, but ever since y’all came around me, you lifted my spirits back up.  Even when I didn’t feel like doing things, y’all came along with smiling faces and got me up out of the bed and walking down the hallway. I’m so much stronger for everything I’ve been through, and blessed to have come to this hospital.”