Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Business
Prognosis

Life After Ventilators Can Be Hell for Coronavirus Survivors

Some never fully recover, and those who do often must relearn basic skills such as walking and swallowing.

Diana Aguilar, 55, spent 10 days on a ventilator fighting for her life in Somerset hospital, New Jersey.

Diana Aguilar, 55, spent 10 days on a ventilator fighting for her life in Somerset hospital, New Jersey.

Source: Aguilar family

Her fever hit 105 degrees. In her delirium, Diana Aguilar was sure the strangers hovering over her, in their masks and gowns, were angels before they morphed into menacing aliens. As a doctor prepared to slide a ventilator tube down her throat, all she remembers thinking was: “I cannot breathe. I have no air. I give up, I give up.”

Aguilar, in the throes of Covid-19, was starting her 10-day descent into ventilator limbo. The mechanical device to which her tube was attached is coveted for its ability to push life-saving oxygen deep into damaged lungs. Yet it also is feared and reviled for the damage it inflicts — and for the slim odds of survival it affords. Aguilar wasn’t aware of any of that, yet she sensed this could be the end. She whispered her goodbyes to her husband, son and daughter, none of whom were anywhere nearby, and then she prayed to God in her native Spanish.