NEW MILFORD – Melanie Ollick Komninos's daughter, Zoey, already battles cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She has a nurse to help her as she struggles every day.
Then the nurse was potentially exposed to the coronavirus. Since then, for Zoey and her family, it's been one struggle, one day of hell after another.
Over the past two weeks, Melanie has been withat pediatric intensive care unit at Hackensack University Medical Center. Her daughter has been on a ventilator, and in an induced coma.
After weeks of this, Zoey, 14, is finally getting better, even though they're not completely out of the woods yet. Melanie has stayed with her, waiting with her even though she's potentially going to get herself sick, too.
For Melanie, however, she's hoping Zoey can be an inspiration to many – especially those with special needs – and their parents who are pushing through outbreak, even as the the threat to them is greater than others.
And she also hopes that it sends a message to those who don't get it yet: Stay home.
"This is what COVID-19 looks like for a child with epilepsy and cerebral palsy," Melanie told Patch. "Please don’t turn away, look and let it sink in – this is what a ventilator looks like for a young girl.
"So, when you want your state to keep schools open so your kids can go back to school so you can work, or when you think a simple meet-up, hanging out with friends, playing games on the block, riding bikes with friends and more seem like they won’t hurt anyone – keep this image in your mind."
The good news is that the doctor was finally able to remove the breathing tube on Thursday, Melanie. said Zoey is congested, breathing quickly and on 15 liters of oxygen. But the doctors and nurses are so happy with her progress.
"We are half way there but hopefully out of the woods," Melanie told Patch. Her friends are with her, spiritually, setting up a GoFundMe page to help with Zoey's care.
The troubles that the average child goes through, Melanie noted, pale to what Zoey has gone through.
Kids may complain about missing school, but Zoey, 14, was pulled out in 2018 because her immune system couldn't handle the germs. She also has a feeding tube in her belly and she has chronic lung infections
And while Melanie has been in the quarantine room with Zoey, she hasn't been able to really visit with the rest of the family. Her husband, Jimmy, and two other children have been quarantined at home.
"This is what my family and all families raising kids with special needs are going through, and the fragile health fears happening to their child," Melanie said.
Initially, Zoey had an elevated temperature but she didn't have symptoms. But being high-risk, her family knew she had to go to the hospital.
She went to Hackensack, and tested positive. Soon after, her oxygen was low and she was wheezing.
Since then, it's been a regular ritual of watching her oxygen levels, adjusting her medications and making she she is fed. The doctors have watched her electrolytes, and she's had seizures.
The past week has been day-by-day vigil, one that involves watching after Zoey and hoping that she eventually could have the tube removed.
When it finally was, it was cause for celebration.
They swabbed Zoey again to see if she is negative for the active virus, Melanie said. If so they will test again after the results. If negative, they will remove the negative pressure from the room.
Melanie, meanwhile, finally took a nap on Thursday night. So far, she hasn't shown any symptoms herself, despite being quarantined with her daughter.
But that's not what's most important to her right now.
"We all have to stay home for this to work for all of us," she said. "Please follow Zoey and keep her and our family in your prayers and thoughts for recovery."