Fortunately, Trotter’s condition improved without the need for ECMO therapy, and she was taken off ventilator support on April 20. She remembers feeling the pangs of hunger for the first time, which prompted her to realize she had been relying on a feeding tube for nutrition.
“I didn’t really realize how weak I was or the seriousness of everything I went through,” she says. “It was like I went to sleep, I wasn’t feeling well, I woke up, and I’m stuck in this bed.”
On April 22, Trotter was transferred back to Tidelands Waccamaw, where she received continued care to support her recovery, including occupational, physical and speech therapy to help her swallow food. She had lost 25 pounds of mostly muscle while hospitalized for the illness.
“Eating initially was very slow, and I could only tolerate a few bites at each meal,” she says. “My sense of taste was also affected – everything tasted different, even water.”
By then, she had learned from her husband about the tremendous support she and her family had received. An online fundraiser started by friends raised more than $15,000, far exceeding its $10,000 goal. Loved ones showed support on social media by using the hashtag #GinaStrong, and people donated gift cards, food and more to help her husband and stepdaughter at home.
“I was brought to tears with the amount of support people showed,” she says. “It was overwhelming.”
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On April 24 – more than two weeks after she was first admitted to the hospital — Trotter was discharged from Tidelands Waccamaw to the cheers of hospital staff, who gathered at the hospital’s entrance to see her off. Though her strength and conditioning have continued to improve, she still struggles with fatigue, difficulty breathing and a recurring cough.
“It’s definitely going to be a process to get back to 100 percent,” she says. “I want to go back to work. I want to start running again.
“I’ve always been self-motivated; it’s hard for me to just lay down and let life give me what it’s going to give me. I keep pushing forward, and I think that’s helping me in my recovery.”
Hopefully, she says, people will learn from her story and take COVID-19 seriously.
“A lot of people think this thing is going away, and I’m very skeptical it’s going away any time soon,” she says. “I hope people learn from my experience and realize how serious this can be even to an otherwise healthy person.”