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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Michigan woman loses brain cells after contracting COVID-19

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Posted at 8:57 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 09:21:34-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Michigan woman who had one of the worst cases of COVID-19 doctors had seen is still suffering from brain fog, or in her case, brain cells that died from the virus.

She's been identified as one of the first COVID patients in the country where the virus affected her brain activity, turning her journey into a years-long recovery.

When Rachael Woo was admitted to Mary Free Bed, she couldn't sit up.

It's hard today for her to watch the videos of her struggle.

“Because it looks like this is fake, you know, it's not belong to me," Woo said. "You know, it wasn't me.”

Prior to her hospitalization, the fire department showed up when her friends became worried. She was unresponsive and not alert

"I would have been dead but, you know, they all come in, they took me to the hospital, that's what they say," Woo said. "I don't remember. You know, it this is, I don't know what happened to me."

As doctors treated her, they discovered parts of her brain had 'dissolved', meaning her brain cells had died.

Her case was referenced in numerous medical journals, and even The New York Times.

"It was so severe that, and it was very obvious to clinically, whereas you know she couldn't feed herself, she couldn't swallow, she couldn't walk, she couldn't use the bathroom," said Dr. Ralph Wang, the lead Covid physician at Mary Free Bed. "So what we saw in imaging really did correlate with what we saw in person."

Dr. Wang and his team helped her slowly regain her strength to help overcome her physical challenges.

Her sons were also from her side from day one, even making the decision to put her on hospice, where she miraculously became better.

"She just looks and she's like, she's crying. And for us it was like.. I guess like, almost for me it was like a miracle kind of thing where she was like, 'you can talk, you know'," said Trevor Woo. "And so, from there, it was just kind of like we told the doctors like, I think."

Trevor continues to act as a caretaker for his Mom, helping her through the challenges like brain fog that continues today.

"Yeah so... my brain is foggy enough, but it doesn't hurt, but still, you know, it's, I can manage myself to, you know, love, little by little, getting better," Racheal Woo said.

Today, Rachael can drive a little and can walk and talk, and again live somewhat independently.

"I think she kind of surprised myself and all the staff," Dr. Wang said. "I mean, even within like two to three weeks she was walking without a walker and can have, you know, a fairly solid conversation with us and so usually when we see someone that week from a brain injury. You know, her rate of progress in one month was usually for most people, six months."

Her progress today is not only thanks to the doctors at Mary Free Bed, but also her sons, who continue to help her with the tasks she still has yet to accomplish on her own.

"I mean, they dedicate their life to help me," Rachael said. "You know, they took care of me...so it's been so good."

Unfortunately, the brain cells that died will never come back, but Rachael does hope for a full recovery within the next couple of years.

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SEE MORE: CORONAVIRUS IN MID MICHIGAN