#WyoStrong: 54 days on a ventilator; local COVID survivor returns home

#WyoStrong stories, brought to you by Wyoming Community Bank, highlight Wyoming perseverance, ingenuity, creativity and resilience.

Lori Anne “Annie” Brown returned home to Fremont County last week after being life-flighted to Casper on July 20th due to COVID-19 complications.

During that time, Annie spent time in 3 different healthcare facilities, was on a ventilator for 54 days, and in the ICU for 43. But all of them were away from her family.

“The last thing she said to me was ‘everyone is going to be okay, we are going to beat this’,” her daughter Kenzie Monroe recalled. “The hardest part about being in the hospitals was no one was allowed to visit. We couldn’t sit by her bedside to let her know she’s not alone.”

The 58-year-old Northern Arapaho Tribal member tested positive on July 13th, Kenzie explained. She helped care for Annie during the initial days, but with diabetes as an underlying health condition, everything became worse within a week.

“It didn’t matter how much I was doing; it wasn’t going to help.”

-Kenzie Monroe

Kenzie called the hospitals every night for updates to share with the family. “It was overwhelming,” she shared. “It was scary not knowing what was going to happen.”

After two weeks on a ventilator in Casper, Annie wasn’t making any progress and a doctor told the family they need to decide what to do saying that “this is no way to live.”

Knowing Annie would want to live, the family decided to keep fighting. “As long as her heart is beating, we are going to hang tight with her,” Kenzie recalled her uncle saying.

This was the longest Annie had been away from her family and one of the hardest things they’ve had to go through as a family, she continued. “We hung to our faith, that’s what got us through – prayers, and calling to make sure she was okay. Not letting up, not letting doubt, not letting fear get in our way.”

Within the next week, she turned around and things started looking better. Annie remained on the ventilator and was transferred to the closest rehabilitation center which at the time was in Billings, Montana. A few weeks later, she woke up.

“I don’t remember anything that happened until I woke up in September.”

-Annie Brown

Kenzie continued calling her mom every night, reading her scriptures, and praying. “It’s a new day so keep fighting and keep healing,” she would say to her mom.

Annie was finally able to have the vent removed in mid-September. She suffered vocal cord damage and had to re-learn how to talk, walk, and write. She made the biggest strides in her rehabilitation at a recently opened facility in Casper where she was transferred at the end of September.

“COVID is all around us, but it changes your outlook when it’s family,” Kenzie shared. “That’s when you look at it differently. We take the extra precautions now, and are more sympathetic and compassionate.”

The family got the call two weeks ago, saying Annie could come home. Kenzie went to Casper and had to go through training on how to bring her home. She shared how emotional it was to see her mom for the first time since July, and finally knowing she is okay.

“I heard about all of the people that had passed while I was in the hospital. I just thank god for everybody with their prayers that I’m still here. That I was given another chance.”

-Annie Brown

An emotional surprise homecoming was planned on October 19th when family and friends came together for a socially distanced celebration of Annie’s return.

h/t Kenzie Monroe – Annie riding past everyone welcoming her home

“It was such a blessing, so beautiful and humble,” Kenzie said about Annie’s welcome home. “Just to see how many people missed her. It impacted the whole community the Reservation and Riverton. The people who saw her every day.”

Her family is thankful to have her back home and Annie shared she’s glad to be home.

h/t Kenzie Monroe – Dancers at Annie’s welcome home celebration

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