July 31, 2020
When Glorimar Pagan gave birth to a healthy, 8.5-pound baby boy at Wesley Medical Center on July 27, it was a joyous occasion that marked the final chapter of a long, often tenuous, struggle.
Having tested positive for COVID-19 in April, Pagan, who was pregnant, initially suffered only minor symptoms. After a few days, however, her condition began to worsen, and she was transported by ambulance to a hospital from her home in Dodge City, Kansas.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Pagan said. “I asked the doctors to do something – to just open me up so I could get air.”
Once Pagan was hospitalized, she was quickly transferred to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita so she could receive a higher level of care.
Pagan and her boyfriend, Jose Vasquez, along with Glorimar’s 8-year-old daughter, Glorialexmar, had only lived in Dodge City for a few months, having left most of her family in Florida when Jose got a job at a Dodge City meatpacking plant. Though her memory of those first few days in the hospital is cloudy, Pagan said she felt very alone and worried for Glorialexmar – especially since her boyfriend had tested positive for COVID-19 soon after Glorimar.
Her niece, Rosie Suero, called from Florida several times a day to check on her aunt and keep the family updated.
“I was the one who asked all of the questions and kept everyone informed,” Suero said. “As tired and exhausted as I’m sure the doctors and nurses were at the time, every single person I spoke to was so caring and told me exactly what was happening. With COVID – especially back then – there were just so many unknowns, but I knew from my calls that she was getting the best care possible.”
At 24 weeks pregnant, Pagan was admitted into Wesley’s Labor and Delivery Unit upon arrival by Dr. Dawne Lowden, an OB specializing in high-risk pregnancies. Upon assessment, Dr. Lowden and her team transferred Pagan to the ICU the same evening. Due to her pregnancy, Pagan would require an unusual collaboration between the ICU and labor and delivery teams.
“She had an ICU nurse as well as a labor and delivery nurse with her at all times so they could monitor and care for both Glorimar and her baby,” said Penny Clement, Pagan’s case manager. “Nearly every department in the hospital was involved, and – despite the fact that many of these groups were not used to collaborating in this way – everyone really listened to one another to make necessary decisions for Glorimar’s care.”
The unusual circumstances even called for Wesley’s neonatal critical care team to set up facilities nearby in case an emergency cesarean section was required. Fortunately, the baby showed no signs of distress, even as the mother struggled.
Once in the ICU, a decision was made to put Pagan was on a ventilator. Confused and still worried about her daughter, Pagan resisted until her niece intervened by phone.
“Her nurse ask for me to speak to her to see if I could calm her down and – although it was really hard to understand her due to the lack of oxygen – she managed to say “mi hija”, meaning my daughter. I calmed her down by telling her that her daughter was going to be just fine and that she needed to allow for the staff members to do their work.”
Knowing that her daughter would be okay, since she had been sent to Florida, where Pagan’s parents had flown to care for her, she finally relaxed. She was placed on a ventilator and placed into a medically induced coma – a condition in which she would remain for the next 20 days.
“She was one of the most critically ill patients I’ve ever seen,” said Michael Lowe, manager of Wesley’s Medical Intensive Care Unit. “Her ventilator settings were maxed out. We had to use intermittent prone positioning [lying on stomach to help oxygen and blood circulation reach the healthiest parts of the lungs] for several hours a day, which took a team of 6-7 nurses and respiratory therapists for every turn to make sure her IVs, breathing tube, and her baby were all positioned safely.”
During this time, Pagan also underwent treatment for kidney failure. For a while, her outlook seemed bleak. Doctors worked feverishly to improve her condition. In fact, Pagan was the first patient in Wichita to be approved to receive the anti-viral drug remdesivir, which had just been approved by the FDA, and was given other treatments to help improve her condition.
In May, after 20 days of unconsciousness, these treatments appear to have helped, as Pagan’s condition began to improve. She was removed from the ventilator, and stepped up to the Intermediate Care Unit (IMU) to continue her recovery. Her boyfriend, who had recovered from COVID-19 himself, was able to visit. Pagan spent eight days in the IMU before being transferred back to the Women’s Hospital, where she remained until her dismissal on June 3, nearly 40 days after her arrival. Pagan underwent significant physical, occupational and speech therapy to regain her strength.
Suero, who had been in close communication with hospital staff throughout her aunt’s stay at Wesley, continues to voice her gratitude and admiration for those who cared for Pagan.
“The amount of love, care and patience they showed with Glorimar – and with me and the rest of the family – was beyond measure,” Suero said. “The doctors and nurses cared for her as if she was one of their own loved ones, and we’re so grateful for that.”
Once back home, Pagan’s pregnancy went normally. She returned to Wesley for a scheduled C-section and gave birth on July 27.
“After giving birth to a healthy baby boy, Glorimar reached out to some of her previous caregivers,” Pagan’s case manager Clement said. “We all became very close to her after such a long and difficult journey, so having such a happy ending is just wonderful.”
As Pagan and her baby boy were wheeled out of the hospital on July 31, dozens of staff lined the hallways to say goodbye and wish the family well.
“Glorimar’s whole story is just a miracle,” Clement said. “We’re thrilled for her, and so excited that we were able to help her through her health crisis and reach such a happy ending.”