COVID-19 survivor walks out of rehab after being pronounced brain dead

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — On Tuesday, 25-year-old Tionna Hairston did something many thought she would never be able to do: She walked out of rehab after fighting COVID-19.

Hairston and her mother, Stacey Peatross, were both diagnosed in May.

“She took care of me when I was sick. She had hardly any symptoms,” Peatross said.

As Hairston cared for her mom, her own health took a turn for the worse.

“Strokes. She had a heart attack and had to be revived from that. She had to have an implanted defibrillator placed,” Dr. James Mclean, the medical director at Novant Health Rehabilitation Hospital, said.

In June, doctors had lost hope after Hairston stopped breathing for 30 minutes. She was pronounced brain dead.

“They thought that we should take her off of life support because she had no hope for life. They thought she would be a vegetable. She wouldn’t have any quality of life at all,” Peatross said.

Her family and friends, and even some strangers, held multiple prayer circles in hopes she would get better, and she did.

She was in rehab for more than a month, learning how to eat, dress and stand on her own again.

She was released from Novant Rehab Hospital on Monday to a crowd of cheering friends, family and doctors.

“Thank you guys for being there for me and supporting me,” Hairston told the crowd of family and medical staff.

When she stood up in front of her loved ones and doctors, it brought tears to their eyes.

“To see her rise up out of that chair and take steps when nobody thought she would ever be able to walk again … She said, ‘Mommy, I’m gonna walk,'” her mom said.

Hairston said it was her faith that allowed for that moment.

“My faith in God and the fact that I wanted to walk again,” she said.

Hairston is home, continuing her rehabilitation there.

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