OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma woman’s battle with COVID-19 led to the amputation of both of her feet and 46 days in the intensive care unit, and she got through it with her husband by her side.
“I just remember I was paralyzed. I didn’t know where I was, and I remember a nurse telling me, ‘You’ve been very, very ill,'” said Charlotte Kreizenbeck. She was alone in a hospital bed, unable to move, and had no idea why she was there.
Her battle with COVID-19 began in October.
“I started having some breathing problems, and I really didn’t think I had COVID-19, because I didn’t feel really bad, but I just had trouble breathing, and it was a day in October when all the electricity was out in town. There was a storm,” Kreizenbeck said.
A late October ice storm knocked out power to much of Oklahoma, including Kreizenbeck’s doctor’s office. She found a clinic in a neighboring town that was powered by a generator. Health care professionals checked her oxygen level and told her to immediately get to a hospital, and it was there that she tested positive for COVID-19.
“After that, the only thing I remember is a helicopter ride,” said Kreizenbeck, who was airlifted to Oklahoma City.
Doctors told her family it did not look good.
“When I heard the word ventilator, my heart sank, because I knew a ventilator was not good,” said her daughter, Terri Kreizenbeck-Barger. “I knew being on a ventilator, the odds were not in her favor.”
While sedated, Kreizenbeck suffered strokes that paralyzed her left side and impaired her vision and her short-term memory.
“I was trying to comprehend what was going on. I didn’t know time frame. I didn’t realize what had happened to me. I was paralyzed on my left side and completely bedfast. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get up,” she said. “A nurse told me that I’d had COVID-19 and had been in the hospital for quite a while.”
Because of safety protocols at the hospital, her family could not see her in person, but her husband, Chris, would not leave. He slept in the hospital parking lot.
“We’ve been together too long,” he said. “We grew up together, raised each other, then raised kids.”
Chris Kreizenbeck was in constant contact with the hospital staff who were taking care of his wife, especially one in particular.
“I called her the death nurse, but she was a good gal. She got me in there to see her,” he said.
Tears are not comfortable for Chris Kreizenbeck, but his wife sees through his rugged exterior.
“You stayed in there with me,” she said. “Brushing my hair the whole time and talking to me. He asked me, ‘Charlotte, can you hear me? If you can hear me, squeeze my hand,’ and I did.”
Charlotte Kreizenbeck’s blood pressure dipped dangerously low, and she was treated with a vasopressor, a drug used to treat low blood pressure in critically ill patients.
The drug, which also constricts blood vessels, was hard on her.
“In my lungs there was some scarring, and they had to let the scarring and the lungs heal. They’d given me a medication that made my feet literally die, but it saved my life,” she said. “My feet turned black, and if they touched together, they clicked like wood. And I had to get stronger to get through an amputation surgery.”
Doctors had to amputate her feet.
“It has impacted our life as far as how we have a daily routine now, but in the future when I get prosthetics and learn to walk, it’ll just be a memory,” she said.
Charlotte Kreizenbeck is making sure she never encounters COVID-19 again. She has since received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
She says her feet may be gone, but her reasons for living are not.
“I just accepted it and moved forward. I didn’t know if it didn’t sink in or if it sunk and I was ok with it or I realized how severe my health had gotten at one point,” she said. “I was just thrilled to know that one day in the future, I would hold my grandkids, I’d see my children again and that I had survived COVID-19.”