Methodist Healthcare System | Keeping Well | Winter 2021 3 Patient changes perspective after COVID-19 nearly takes his life William “Bill” Bloom, 53, didn’t view COVID-19 as a serious threat until it almost took his life. “I didn’t believe in it. I did not care to wear a mask. I didn’t think it would affect me,” Bill admitted. His perspective dramatically changed when his shortness of breath and chest pain took him to the Methodist Hospital | Northeast emergency room, where he spent 17 days on a ventilator, including his birthday. When Bill’s tubes were removed, he began improving. He told his nurses the most important thing to him was getting to see his grandchildren. They coordinated a plan to safely reunite them with their grandpa as they waved through the window of his room. His nurses even helped him create gift baskets for the grandchildren by going to the hospital gift shop and purchasing toys for the baskets on his behalf. “That is kindness beyond belief,” said Bill. “They didn’t just show kindness, they showed concern and love.” “If I can stop one person, I will be doing something good,” he shares. “It’s simple— wear a mask, social distance, keep your hands clean. It’s so easy to cut down the risk of losing a life—a mother, father, brother, or sister. I changed my opinion about everything.” Irma Ybarra, a mother and grandmother from El Paso, Texas, received the birthday present of a lifetime—the gift of life—on her 48th birthday. She was scheduled for a life-saving liver transplant at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant on her birthday. But the day took a dramatic turn when she coded in her hospital room the morning of her scheduled surgery. “It’s a miracle really. I died and came back to life on my birthday. Dr. Foster gave me the best birthday present ever,” said Irma. Preston Foster, MD, is the medical director of the liver transplant program at the hospital. Irma started feeling sick during the summer of 2020. She was vomiting and nauseated. Her normally soft skin was rough, scaly, and itchy, and her enzyme levels were severely elevated. After several trips to the ER and doctor visits, her doctor in El Paso realized her liver was failing. In September, they told her she needed to get to Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant in San Antonio as soon as possible because she may not have long to live. Irma checked in to the ER there on Sept. 21. The team ordered tests to determine Irma’s MELD score, the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease that determines the severity of a patient’s liver disease. “We were able to complete her evaluation quickly because she was fairly young and didn’t have any prior medical problems,” said Foster. “She was a high priority patient because of her high MELD Score.” The following day, they found a match for a liver donation. She was scheduled for surgery on Sept. 24, her birthday. That morning, Irma went into cardiopulmonary arrest in her hospital room. Irma’s mother was distraught. “I was holding her, and she said, ‘I feel weak.’ That’s when her eyes rolled back in her head. The nurses ran in and started chest compressions,” said Mrs. Sandoval. “I thought ‘Oh my God! My baby girl is dying in front of my eyes.’” It took about 30 minutes for the team to resuscitate her. Later that day, doctors determined she was still fit to receive the scheduled transplant. The staff brought Irma balloons and sang Happy Birthday to her before they wheeled her off to surgery. Irma asked that they play “Born to be Alive” as she went into the OR. Irma’s liver transplant surgery was a success. She is now back at home with her family and extremely grateful to the team that saved her life. “ It’s a miracle really. I died and came back to life on my birthday. Dr. Foster gave me the best birthday present ever.” —Irma Ybarra KEEPINGWELL —WINTER 2021 Irma Sandoval (L) and her daughter, Irma Ybarra. Born to Be Alive Woman dies and comes back to life on her birthday