After weeks of relying on a ventilator for oxygen, Melissa Meza is beginning to breathe on her own with the help of a special blood treatment, while her husband happily updates friends and strangers alike on her status using social media.
Louis Meza thanked the public for their continued prayers for Melissa, 43, who was relying completely on a ventilator for oxygen before doctors determined that she would need treatment from an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to survive.
ECMO is a form of last-resort life support that oxygenates blood through an artificial lung and heart, pumping the patient’s blood through tubes to the machine to create oxygen that damaged organs cannot create on their own.
With Louis’ approval, Melissa was transferred to Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday, where she became responsive and her breathing improved just a couple of days after beginning ECMO treatment.
“She’s been through a lot and she needed this procedure done. The doctors and the nurses here at Marian hospital were wonderful with her, but she just ended up needing a little bit of extra treatment,” Louis said in a Facebook video Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the day of Louis and Melissa's 24th wedding anniversary, Louis said he was able to talk to his wife using Facetime with the help of hospital staff.
"I got to Facetime her this morning, and she responded. She opened her eyes and when I told her, 'happy anniversary,' she tried to speak. It was really impressive," he said.
Louis himself was hospitalized with the virus for six days in March as he struggled to breathe and coughed up blood before finally improving. The same day he was discharged, however, Melissa was admitted to urgent care for COVID-19 and put on a ventilator.
Since then, Louis has posted videos on Facebook to share updates about his wife's status and share precautions, reaching thousands of people who have become invested in the Santa Maria family's journey.
In his Tuesday video, the father of two reinforced that the virus should be taken seriously, especially seeing the impact it has had on his family.
“I want to remind everybody that this has been 17 days that she’s been going through this. So for all those people who still don’t think this is that serious, it is serious. You still need to stay home … we are not out of the woods yet,” Louis said.
One element that contributed to Melissa's recovery was a plasma donation she received from someone who had recovered from the virus, Louis said.
Various blood banks such as Vitalant are beginning to gather plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients in order to introduce virus-fighting antibodies to those who are still sick until their bodies produce an immune response.
If given the opportunity to donate plasma, Louis urged those who have recovered to step up.
"It's not shameful that you have it. I'm not ashamed that I had the virus. But we can help a lot of people out there," Louis said.
Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.
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