Washington DC VA Medical Center
Recovering From COVID-19
Wednesday, July 15, 2020Employees of the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center are preparing to celebrate life with their colleague, Sharon Tapp, a Registered Nurse who cares for Veterans as a Case Manager. Tapp will soon be released from rehabilitation after a lengthy 117-day hospitalization battling COVID-19.
It has been a long, tough fight for Ms. Tapp who began experiencing sudden body weakness, chest pains, headache and high fever on March 18. She was admitted to Johns Hopkins Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. March 23, 2020. Ten days later, as her condition worsened, she was medevacked to the Johns Hopkins’ facility in Baltimore. There, the RN who has spent her whole adult life caring for others, was being cared for in the Intensive Care and Cardiac Care Units.
She was placed on a ventilator and into a medically-induced coma. She received dialysis and a treatment called ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The ECMO treatment, often considered the “last resort” for COVID-19 patients, oxygenates and recirculates the blood allowing the vital organs a chance to rest and heal.
She has spent at least two months in the coma, hooked to a ventilator, dialysis, and an ECMO machine simultaneously. When she awoke, she had a tracheal tube inserted into her throat to help with the ventilator. She also had a feeding tube placed in her stomach.
She has made steady progress and with the help of the multidisciplinary physical medicine and rehabilitation team, is working through physical, occupational, and speech therapy. She is re-learning to stand, walk, swallow, chew, sip from a straw, and test her cognitive abilities. Doctors at Johns Hopkins say that Ms. Tapp’s recovery is miraculous.
Her family, friends, and DC VAMC coworkers have kept vigil outside the hospital. Due to the virus’ contagious nature, visitors are not allowed. Her family formed a prayer assembly line that stretches across the nation from Maryland to California. Her church family of Springfield Baptist Church in Washington, DC lifts her up in prayer three times a day. Tapp is expected to return home on Friday, July 17 and the excitement among family, friends and colleagues is tremendous.
After full recovery, Tapp plans to return to the DC VAMC where she has worked for the past thirteen years as an inpatient nurse case manager who coordinates and assists Veterans with their discharge from the hospital. She loves working with Veterans. The mission is personal, as her uncles, brothers and cousins have all served in the military. She refers to her DC VAMC coworkers as “family” and they call her the “social butterfly.”
She has a very long road ahead of her and both of her "families" are looking forward to having her home.