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After waking from coma, COVID-19 survivor returns home to Pilot Station

Feb 19, 2021

A 33-year-old woman from Pilot Station returned home on Feb. 8 after spending over two months in hospitals. Nastasia “Bea” Xavier recovered after being in a medically induced coma for weeks due to COVID-19 complications. Her mother said that she’s her “miracle child.”

Xavier’s family and friends call her Bea. Her older brother, Joe Xavier, helped give her that name. At the end of November, that same older brother checked into Pilot Station’s health clinic a day before she did. They both had COVID-19, were struggling to breathe, and were put on oxygen. Xavier said that her brother was doing worse than her, so she fought to recover quickly so that he could use her oxygen concentrator in conjunction with his own.

“When my breathing got good, I gave my oxygen to him. He need it more than I do,” Xavier said.

It wasn’t enough. Poor weather conditions prevented a medevac from arriving in Pilot Station for three days. Xavier and her mother, Thecla Xavier, were at the clinic with Joe during his final moments, but COVID-19 left Xavier no time to grieve. The day after her brother died, on Thanksgiving Day, she was medevaced to Bethel. She developed pneumonia and needed to be put on a ventilator. At that point she was flown to Seattle, Washington. Dr. Kevin Patel, the Medical Director at the UW Medical Center ICU, said that her vital organs started to fail, one after another. Patel said that he had only seen a handful of patients during the pandemic as sick as her.

“There were many times where it was hour-to-hour, especially in the beginning. We weren't sure whether Nastasia would survive to the next hour,” Patel said.

Xavier was put into a medically induced coma. Patel said that her body was connected to machines that performed the functions of her lungs, her kidneys, and even her heart.

“Very few people survive this type of situation,” Patel said.

And yet, Xavier did. On Jan. 7, she awoke from her coma.

“I was confused where I was,” Xavier said. “I couldn’t talk. I had to learn sign language. It was, like, so far, I’m so far away from home. I was thinking of my kids.”

Coming out of her coma was not the end of Xavier’s COVID-19 journey, far from it. Weeks went by as they disconnected her from the ventilator, the dialysis machine, and the blood oxygenator. She began the process of fighting to regain her normal abilities, like standing.

“It was hard,” Xavier said. “Like baby steps. Learn slowly.”

On Feb. 5, more than two months after she first checked into the health clinic in Pilot Station, Xavier was discharged from the hospital. Her recovery is not only a testament to her individual strength, but also to the legions of doctors and nurses who aided her. Patel said that during the course of her nearly two-month stay at the UW Medical Center, over 100 medical professionals were involved in her care.

“At the peak on any one day, I would say at least 10 people involved all at the same time,” Patel said.

When it was time to go home, a familiar face arrived to help. A doctor from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation flew down to Seattle to be her escort. And months after she left Pilot Station, Xavier was able to return to all her friends and family.

“My kids were the first ones to come up to me. I hugged them really tight. My oldest one was really happy; she started crying,” Xavier said.

Xavier realized how much time had passed. One of her older sisters had white hair now, she said. Her two girls had grown so much without her.

“My oldest is same height as me now,” Xavier said. “My five year old girl, she’s starting to learn her math.”

For her mother Thecla, her daughter’s return has been as sweet as the previous few months have been bitter. She said that at times she thought she would have to burn a second child’s clothes.

“She is a miracle. She is my miracle child,” said the mother.

Xavier said that by coming home, she was just fulfilling a promise she made to her mom when she was first medevaced to Bethel. She said that she called her mom, saying, “I'm a fighter. I’m going to fight this to be alive. I'm gonna fight this for my family and my kids.”

Xavier still has a long fight ahead of her to fully recover from her COVID-19 complications, but the battles are getting more manageable. The morning after she arrived in Pilot Station, her battle was making breakfast for her family by herself, on her own two feet. And like COVID-19, bacon, eggs, and pancakes were no match for Nastasia “Bea” Xavier.