For the Miami Valley Today
DAYTON — Shayna Stanley said testing positive for COVID-19 was something she never thought would happen. The 31-year-old from West Milton was active in independent filmmaking when she began to fall ill.
“I had a fever, and it kept fluctuating,” said Stanley. “When I went to the doctor to get tested, I knew it was positive.”
A few days after her birthday in July 2021, Stanley said her symptoms began to worsen.
“I started having trouble breathing,” said Stanley. “I only remember being in the ambulance and waking up two months later.”
Stanley was hospitalized at Miami Valley Hospital’s Level I Trauma Center in Dayton. As her symptoms drastically deteriorated in the Intensive Care Unit, Stanley was intubated and placed on a ventilator.
“We’ve seen some severe COVID-19 cases where patients’ conditions rapidly decline, and their lungs get worse and worse,” said Vincent Nardy, DO, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates and adult ECMO medical director at Miami Valley Hospital. “Shayna’s condition began going down a path where we decided to intervene and put her on ECMO.”
ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is when blood is pumped outside of the body to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back to tissues in the body. Blood flows from one part of the body to the membrane oxygenator in the heart-lung machine, and then is rewarmed and sent back to the body.
Miami Valley Hospital was the first in Dayton to offer the adult life-saving therapy, allowing the heart and lungs to rest and heal.
“ECMO is designed to support the body in hopes that it heals itself,” said Dr. Nardy. “Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to help the lungs heal outside of giving them time. In Shayna’s case, that was ECMO’s main purpose — buying her time.”
Stanley was comatose for nearly two months.
“There are dire occasions when we induce patients into a coma to get their body at its lowest possible oxygen demand state,” said Dr. Nardy. “These extreme measures give them the best chance of a positive outcome.”
The odds were stacked against Stanley as she fought for her life against a disease that has killed more than 800,000 Americans since March 2020.
“After a few months of Shayna being hospitalized, the ECMO team had to have a discussion with her mother about withdrawing her from care,” said Dr. Nardy. “Literally a day or two after that discussion at the bedside, Shayna’s condition turned, and she started to make a drastic recovery. It was remarkable how well she was improving.”
“It was the craziest thing,” said Stanley. “I remember waking up, and it was October. I couldn’t believe I had missed all that time and was in such terrible shape.”
Although Stanley had survived the most life-threatening portion of her illness, months of being bedridden had taken its toll and weakened her body.
Two months after her hospitalization, Stanley is still on oxygen. She has also completed several rounds of physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Ohio, a joint venture between Premier Health and Encompass Health.
“I’m working on getting stronger,” said Stanley. “I’m taking it slow and focusing on getting better.”
Many people have called Stanley a “miracle” after surviving her grueling battle with COVID-19.
“It is certainly a miracle,” said Dr. Nardy. “When I was able to finally speak with Shayna, she always has a smile on her face and is willing to do anything she can to improve her health. Seeing her positive outcome is why we do what we do.”
“I’m very lucky to be here today,” said Stanley. “I never thought this could happen to me, but it did. I have a lot of people to thank for supporting me along the way. I’ve done so much to fight my way back.”