Bettina Lerman was on a ventilator for weeks after getting Covid-19 and hadn’t responded to doctors’ efforts to wake her from a coma when her family made the difficult decision to take her off of life support.
They made funeral arrangements and picked out her casket and headstone as they prepared to say goodbye, her son Andrew Lerman told CNN.
On the day they planned to remove her from life support, Lerman said, he got a call from one of her doctors at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
“He’s like, ‘Well, I need you to come here right away.’ I was like, ‘OK, what’s wrong?’” Lerman said. “He goes, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong. Your mother woke up.’”
Lerman said he dropped the phone when he got the news.
More than 768,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 58.9% of the US population is fully vaccinated.
Lerman said his mother, who turns 70 in February, had a number of health conditions, including diabetes, and had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery a couple of years ago.
She started showing Covid-19 symptoms in early September, was diagnosed when she went into the hospital September 12 and went on the ventilator on the 21st, he said.
She was not vaccinated but had been planning to get her shots when she got sick, he said.
Her condition deteriorated and doctors told the family she wasn’t expected to recover.
“We had a family meeting with the hospital because my mother wasn’t waking up. No matter what they (did), they couldn’t get her to wake up,” Lerman said. “They said that her lungs are completely destroyed. There’s irreversible damage – that it’s just not going to happen.”
It’s been about three weeks since she woke up on October 29, and a hospital spokeswoman told CNN she’s in serious condition. The hospital could not release any additional information because of privacy laws.
Lerman said his mother didn’t suffer any organ failure and no one really understands how she’s doing so well.
“My mother is very religious and so are a lot of her friends, and church, and everything else and they’ve all been praying for her,” he said. “So they can’t explain it on the medical side. Maybe it’s on the religious side. I’m not that religious, but I’m starting to believe that there’s something that helped her. I don’t know.”
Lerman said he talked to his mother for hours Wednesday, and she’s able to move her hands and arms and can breathe on her own for a few hours at a time with some oxygen support, instead of the ventilator.
“She knows where she is, who she is – she’s as sharp as a tack,” Lerman said. “Usually, when somebody comes out of a coma like that, they say that the patients have delirium where they’re very confused. From day one, she hasn’t experienced any of that.”
He said she’s not out of the woods yet, and could still have setbacks, but the medical staff is looking at getting her on a list for rehab to help her regain her range of motion.
She’s already getting physical therapy to help rebuild the muscle strength she lost during the ordeal.
Lerman and his mother live in Florida, but they’d both been coming up to Maine a lot to care for his father, who has stage 4 cancer. Lerman’s father got Covid at about the same time as Lerman’s mother but has recovered.
Lerman and his wife also got Covid, and he said they’re going to get vaccinated in a few weeks when they’re eligible.
When they didn’t think she would recover, Lerman said, the family gave up his mother’s Florida apartment, collected important family items and donated the rest of her things to other residents in her building.
His sister set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help her mother as she recovers.
Lerman said his mother told him she was praying while she was in the coma and remembers people visiting and talking to her.
“So the words of encouragement that I have is not to give up hope, and when you do visit your family members in this situation, talk to them because they can hear you,” he said.
He also said every Covid case is different and he knows not everyone will be able to recover like his mother.
“She’s a miracle,” he said.