This good news story sponsored by Sebring Meats, 3721 Kenilworth Blvd., Sebring, FL 33870; 863-314-6177.
SEBRING – When Ivette and Jesus Perez said their wedding vows to stick together in sickness and in heath until death do they part, they may never have imagined how coronavirus would test those vows 34 years later. Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff lined the long hallway and waved pom-poms as the the couple left AdventHealth Sebring on Tuesday. Ivette wore a Wonder Woman outfit complete with crown. Her ride was in a wheelchair however, not an invisible jet. Tears of joy ran down her face and some of the faces of those who were part of her treatment team.
Perez was escorted home by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office where she is a volunteer chaplain.
Perez and Jesus are co-pastors of Casa de la Adoracion y Alabonza (House of Praise and Worship) at 4708 Kenilworth Blvd. in Sebring. Both say her healing was a gift from God.
Ivette is not 100% sure how she contracted the virus but is pretty sure it was through an acquaintance who had tested positive.
“I think I was vulnerable because I had pneumonia years ago,” Ivette said in her self-proclaimed Spanglish. “My kids and my husband are fine.”
When she developed symptoms of fever, loss of taste and diarrhea, she was treated at the triage tent at the hospital and told she had pneumonia and sent home with medication. When her symptoms worsened, she went back and was hospitalized.
Ivette was in very critical condition. She had a chest tube, a ventilator, food tubes, ended up in a coma and would have to have a tracheotomy. She flat-lined on three separate occasions. Due to complications from the virus, she also received a pacemaker while in the hospital.
Because of visitor restrictions, Jesus was only allowed to visit when Ivette flat-lined and was only able to see her through a window in the door. Jesus has recently been able to visit with her daily. He said the visits lifted Ivette’s spirits and has helped with her therapies.
Ivette spent much time in a coma and doesn’t remember parts of her ordeal. When she woke up hooked up to tubes and monitors, she was shocked.
“I said ‘oh my God, what has happened,’” Ivette recounted her experience. “I couldn’t talk. I told myself, ‘don’t be anxious.’ I was so thirsty.”
Perhaps the hardest part of the experience was not having her family by her side. She was able to FaceTime with her grandkids but she could not verbally communicate with them.
“I didn’t have the strength to write,” she said. “I lost 30 pounds but now I can eat soft foods. Every day that comes is a blessing. I thank God I am alive. I feel the favor of God on my life. I died three times.”
For Jesus, “The scariest part for me was knowing she was in a coma and not knowing if she was going to wake up; not being by her side and holding her hand.”
When asked why she thought she was healed, she said it was because she still had a lot of work to do.
“It is my testimony,” she said. “He will be glorified by what he did for me. People that never pray before prayed for me. This is a harvest. I’m not a book. This is not a movie. I am a real miracle. I would tell people that God’s plan is for good and not for bad.”
The couple said people from around the world prayed for them.
Ivette said she was intubated on her birthday and also missed Mother’s Day while sick. She plans to make up for that, but later, when she is stronger.
She said the worst part of the experience was all the tubes and not being able to move. The most painful procedure was the removal of the chest tube. She knows she has scars, but is happy to be alive.
“AdventHealth Sebring was wonderful,” Jesus said. “They all pulled in and did what they needed to get her better. Everyone did their jobs. They contacted me daily about her condition. I slept with the phone in my hand. Living in a small town and knowing half the nurses and some of the doctors was a comfort to us. We made new friends.”
Ivette was the first patient at AdventHeatlh to receive convalescent plasma therapy. She said although the medical staff thought about moving her, she was too critical to move. She felt she got excellent care.
“Dr. (Luis) Duharte told the nurses, ‘I can’t let this woman die.’ He went above and beyond for me. Dr. (Darmaris) Pena Evertz is an angel; she was there everyday,” Ivette said. “ The ICU staff nurses brushed my hair and gave me massages. They really pampered me. Maria Medina, Carmen Baez and Iris Ortiz, I felt the love and compassion. I give all the glory to God guiding the doctors and nurses. ”
Ivette gave some advice to others who may be concerned they have coronavirus or have become infected. “Just be calm and trust in the Lord,” she said. “Follow instructions. Be patient and pray. Put your life in the Lord. Follow his will.”