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Detroit mom still recovering from the spring wave of COVID-19

Nicole Vaughn, 50, is a single mom of five adopted kids. Back in March she came down with COVID-19 and was hospitalized and put on a ventilator.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

We’re in the middle of a second wave of COVID-19 here in the state, but the reality is some people are still recovering from the first wave back in the spring.

Nicole Vaughn of Detroit has underlying health conditions.

She got COVID back in March and is still dealing with lingering symptoms. She’s had to slow down a lot. But as a single mother of five adopted kids that’s not that easy.

"Being able to do, like, yard work, the chores, mopping, sweeping those types of things. I've had to kind of make sure that you know, I'm spreading out the chores amongst my children," Vaughn said.

Nicole Vaughn shares what life’s been like since she first got the coronavirus this spring.

The initial symptoms

"I lost all sense of smell, all sense of taste...Just getting out of the tub was a chore. And getting back dressed again, I come in my room, and I just collapsed back on my bed. And I just wanted to sleep.

"At this point, I'm weak...I could barely get out of bed...I text my sister on my cell phone. And I say, please come and get me. Take me to the hospital...So of course, she takes me to U of M Ann Arbor.

"I was like the second person there for triage. So they were handling people very, very quickly.

"And they told me I had pneumonia in both my lungs.

"I'm thinking, okay, I'm just sick. I'm not really, you know, a sick person or ill person. I've never really had to have an extended hospital stay or experience."

An extended hospital stay

"I remember a young lady came in...with a green oxygen tank. And I'm like, What's that for? She said, 'Your numbers are getting low.' So she said in the morning, 'You're going to go to the ICU.'"

"You know, they took me up to ICU. And that's when they started, the doctors and everyone, explained to me what the ventilation process was, and they asked me to sign the form about, do I want to be resuscitated."

"I was put on a ventilator that Saturday, March 28."

"And I just remember going to sleep and when I woke up it was pretty much April 1st…

"I wrote a lot of notes. I can say that when I was in the ICU, I wrote a lot of notes. I think I probably wrote enough for a couple chapters in a book.

"And I had also written out my will on this whiteboard. Now I've written out everything I want each one of my children to have.

"When nurse Jason came in that morning...he said, Oh, no, Nicole, we won't be needing this today, cause he saw it was my last will and testament."


"April 6th I was discharged and I was able to come home.

I don't know if COVID has taken time off my life expectancy. So I treat every day as a gift.

"The team of doctors and nurses and specialists...they went above and beyond to make sure that I understood everything, medications that were being given. Even when I was discharged ...there's a doctor that calls me monthly just to make sure I'm okay.

"Because I've been places where you know you're just a number. I was actually a person.

"The only couple of things that I think I'm experiencing now as side effects is, like, I do have the fatigue. And I do also have what I'm referring to as night sweats...And from time-to-time I'll have what is called, like, 'brain fog.'

"But I don't know if COVID has taken time off my life expectancy. So I treat every day as a gift. So every day that I wake up and I'm able to be with my family...and do my job. I consider it to be a blessing."

Nicole Vaughn spoke to Kristen Shamus of the Detroit Free Press. The story was produced by Michigan Radio’s Rachel Ishikawa as part of Michigan Radio's collaboration with the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Magazine. 

Michigan Radio, Bridge Magazine, and The Detroit Free Press are teaming up to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be sharing accounts of the challenges doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel face as they work to treat patients and save lives. If you work in a Michigan hospital, we would love to hear from you. You can contact reporters Robin Erb rerb@bridgemi.com at Bridge, Kristen Jordan Shamus kshamus@freepress.com at the Free Press and Kate Wells katwells@umich.edu at Michigan Radio.

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