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Teen enjoying senior year after surviving complex COVID-related health crisis

A teen hopes to inspire others after catching COVID-19 and getting so sick she had to spend two weeks in the ICU.
A teen hopes to inspire others after catching COVID-19 and getting so sick she had to spend two weeks in the ICU.

Last spring, 17-year-old Sandy Rose tested positive for COVID-19. She had a headache, felt fatigued and expected that to be the extent of it.

“I was like, yeah, I just have to sleep it off, really. So I was like, OK, I have COVID I guess that’s it. But obviously, that wasn’t it,” she recalled.

Over the next few days, Sandy progressively worsened and her parents called 911.

“She was like, I wouldn’t say completely incoherent, but really confused and things,” said Sandy’s father Terry Rose.

At the hospital, doctors also discovered she had type 1 diabetes and was experiencing a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. And then, she went into septic shock.

“Things just never really turned around for her like they expected,” said Terry Rose.

As Sandy’s condition became more critical, she was transported to Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

“Her heart function was not good. Her liver was not working properly, and neither were her kidneys and also her blood sugars were very high,” explained Samir Latifi, chairman of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “And so there were a lot of things that needed a lot of attention.”

Sandy’s doctors put her on a ventilator and administered a cocktail of drugs designed to treat MIS-C, a multisystem inflammatory disorder seen in children with COVID-19. “As we did that, then we started to see all her different organs start improving,” Dr. Latifi said.

After two weeks in pediatric intensive care, Sandy was transferred to rehab.

“My main goal was to be able to walk up and downstairs,” Sandy said.

Doctors still aren’t entirely certain what role COVID-19 played in Sandy’s illnesses. She’s now adjusting to life with Type-1 diabetes and will need to maintain a low-sodium diet to protect her kidneys. But overall she feels good and plans to savor every moment of her senior year.

“This is something I thought about in the hospital a lot, which was like, you know, I was so close to death, if I did die then there’s so many conversations left unsaid, you know, tomorrow is never promised. So go out and have fun,” she said.

Sandy said she’s always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. She said this experience, and all the different medical specialties she encountered, has reinforced her desire to help others.