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With prayers and medicine, Stafford woman would make ‘miraculous’ recovery following COVID | Local Information

Danny Warren’s spouse and children is celebrating everyday living in excess of dying this Easter Sunday, but their triumphant story goes past what’s generally instructed from the pulpit.

Warren’s wife, Alma Zepeda, gave beginning ahead of Xmas, acquired COVID-19, went downhill swiftly and spent 2½ months on a ventilator. These associated with her circumstance, from doctors and nurses to a chaplain, informed Warren it was time to let her go, that her lungs were being so badly destroyed, she’d never breathe on her personal once more.

Warren wouldn’t—he couldn’t—accept it. He observed his 40-year-previous spouse and Army veteran as a powerful and independent female, a police officer in Alexandria who investigates crimes in opposition to little ones. The pair have two minor ones, a toddler named Jacob who enjoys almost everything about “Wreck-It Ralph,” and a newborn, Olivia, who hardly had the probability to be snuggled by her mother.

He was persuaded his wife experienced a complete everyday living in advance of her.

“I saved declaring, no, her story’s not performed still,” he mentioned. “Her story’s not done.”

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As Warren prayed—his mom, Tammy, mentioned he bought on his knees a lot—he asked others to sign up for him, from neighbors in North Stafford to co-workers, pals and even those with Joel Osteen’s television network.

He thinks people prayers and conversations—and becoming at his wife’s bedside practically each individual day, inquiring inquiries and pleading for additional time—led him to the suppliers of an experimental drug, which officers at Mary Washington Medical center agreed to administer.

With the remedy, the mother went from staying on death’s doorway to waking up from her medically induced coma. She started off to chat once again, in spite of months of inactivity and sedation.

She was transferred to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Medical center in Fredericksburg in mid-March to relearn how to use her hands and toes, which ended up severely impacted by becoming bedbound for so long.

In less than a thirty day period, she was in a position to appear home—thrilled to meet her objective of remaining again in time for Jacob’s third birthday on April 10. When she bought up from her wheelchair at Encompass and rang a bell signifying that portion of her remedy was over, health and fitness officers all-around her applauded—and wiped absent a couple tears.

“Emotional, exceptional, miraculous, uplifting—there’s no shortage of optimistic adjectives to explain the total tale,” mentioned Dr. Ali Hafiz, who is effective with Pulmonary Associates of Fredericksburg and handled Zepeda in MWH’s intense care unit.

He formulated a particular relationship with Warren as each adult males welcomed dwelling babies in late December. When Hafiz noticed Zepeda spiraling downward—and heard Warren’s pleas for help—the doctor believed about his possess spouse and child.

“It immediately appealed to my feelings,” Hafiz explained.

That was not the only time Warren manufactured a private connection with individuals close to him.

“I’m telling you, all I did was pray and just comply with exactly where God led me,” the father reported. “The medication is in all probability what healed her, Okay? But God put each individual particular person in my path so that this could get finished.”


When Warren describes the “long fight,” his wife sits on the couch, listening as if he’s describing a stranger. She has minimal memory of what took place. Olivia was shipped by unexpected emergency C-portion on Dec. 17, then Zepeda went again to Stafford Medical center 4 times later on.

She experienced been in the shower, raising her arms to clean her hair when she sensed something was erroneous.

“I felt a tightness in my chest like someone was squeezing my lungs and I was out of breath, just from shampooing, and I was like, this is not normal,” she mentioned.

At the clinic, Zepeda tested favourable for COVID-19. She had not been vaccinated, but prepared to get the shot after the little one was born.

Every person else in the loved ones afterwards examined good as nicely, and Warren wasn’t allowed in the medical center for a even though. He held observe of points by cellphone, and by New Year’s Eve, Zepeda was place on a ventilator and despatched to Mary Washington Clinic.

The COVID-brought about pneumonia experienced progressed to the much more severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is generally deadly.

“They explained to me that right after observing her CT scans that her lungs are wholly absent and that she will in no way appear off the ventilator,” Warren explained. “It was spelled out to me that you are like keeping her back again from heading up, and you gotta enable her go.”

Warren claimed he understands their standpoint. The omicron variant of COVID-19 was raging and Fredericksburg-location hospitals were dealing with far more than 150 patients—on their way to setting all-time COVID data. Plus, the ongoing labor scarcity was heightened, building January and February the worst two months of the pandemic, Mary Washington Health care officers stated just lately.


As pals and co-employees of Warren and Zepeda prolonged the ask for for prayer, the chain achieved somebody who performs for Direct Biologics, a Texas organization that manufactures regenerative biologic solutions. Before long, Warren was speaking with Anastasiya Shulman, director of medical affairs.

Warren explained his scenario and she explained ExoFlo, an investigational drug in clinical trials for dealing with COVID patients with acute respiratory distress. It has not been authorised by the Federal Drug Administration.

Derived from bone marrow, the drug “harnesses the electrical power of stem cells devoid of applying the cells” themselves, reported Dr. Vikram Sengupta, main health care officer at Immediate Biologics. The therapy utilizes the proteins and other information and facts uncovered in genes to make a mechanism that turns down the swelling existing in COVID patients and turns up the body’s means to regenerate tissue, Sengupta said.

“It’s not just one particular molecule hitting one particular goal, it is a total inhabitants of energetic molecules hitting the inflammation community at unique details and a full suite of other molecules helping cells regrow,” he described.

Right after many phone phone calls and conversations, Warren preferred to consider ExoFlo and Immediate Biologics agreed to provide it, for cost-free, by way of its compassionate care clause. The medical center experienced to concur to administer it and use to the Fda for authorization to use it.

A whole lot of discussions followed and Warren credits all the health professionals, nurses and respiratory therapists who listened, and talked with him, about the problem.

“It was kind of a previous-ditch hard work,” mentioned Shulman at Immediate Biologics, and she sensed medical practitioners agreed, the two due to the fact of Warren’s persistence and the idea that it couldn’t do any hurt.

Dr. Mohammed Choudhry stuffed out the piles of paperwork and Zepeda was comatose when she got the very first treatment, an hourlong infusion. Warren had been warned it may possibly consider up to two months to see success, and in the vicinity of the stop of the 14th working day, she showed slight advancement.

Dr. Erik Osborn requested Warren about a 2nd remedy, and the father, and Choudhry, went as a result of the process once more of in search of federal acceptance. They’d do it a 3rd time as effectively.

By that time, Zepeda experienced woke up and a respiratory therapist recommended placing a system about the tube heading down her throat, to see if she could talk.

When word distribute that she could, Hafiz experienced to see it for himself. He questioned a couple of thoughts, and in the clearest voice, with out the slightest rasp—which he claimed is unheard of for somebody in her condition—she told him her tummy damage.

“I was virtually trembling when I came out of that home, my anticipations were being shattered,” Hafiz mentioned. “I would by no means in a million several years have predicted that minute would have happened. I was entirely head blown by then.”


Pictures showed Zepeda’s lungs experienced fixed themselves. Simply because she endured other problems from currently being ventilated that lengthy, she headed to Encompass for rigorous rehab.

“She was identified from the commencing,” mentioned Michele Burke, her case manager at Encompass. “We’re all just extremely delighted and delighted with all the development she made, and specially as one particular mom to a further, to see her go dwelling to her children.”

Nevertheless, her recovery is significantly from about. Her ideal hand hangs closely at her side, “like it weighs a thousand lbs .,” she claimed, and her still left wrist is curled from remaining in the exact same place for so prolonged. Her feet are pointed downward as well, but workouts and braces are created to suitable the difficulties.

Warren’s parents, Tammy and W.O. Warren, have cared for Olivia, working day and night time, and Zepeda’s intention is to stage in the baby’s eventual return house. Jacob has been in little one treatment by day and with his father in the night.

Zepeda says she feels like a third baby, as she cannot do everything without having assistance. Receiving up off the sofa, standing in front of her walker and taking a dozen techniques wears her out, but she does it hourly. The motion leaves her gasping for breath.

“I’ll be sincere, despair sets in,” she explained. “I have to notify him when I have to go to the lavatory, when I’m completely ready for mattress, when I’m hungry, when I’m thirsty. Everything. There is no independence.”

In her thoughts, “it was like a three-working day span” from the time she entered the healthcare facility once more, just after Olivia’s start, to when she came home on April 7, but “apparently not.” Although she struggles to offer with what she’s lost—and attempts not to get far too anxious about how a great deal she may possibly recover—her partner is on the reverse close of the emotional spectrum.

He’s jubilant. He keeps telling her about all the development she’s produced because he noticed for himself her swollen physique and deteriorating problem, as devices did every little thing for her. Even after she woke up, she couldn’t sit or stand without having assistance—and he even now wishes to be near by when she does possibly, in situation she demands assist.

But the few, alongside with his mom and dad and family, truly feel grateful and blessed in so quite a few approaches, Tammy Warren mentioned. His co-staff at Fresenius Kidney Treatment, the place he’s a biomedical technician, have donated compensated time off. Zepeda’s revenue has continued by way of a COVID reduction method, but the couple is specified they’ll have piles of medical bills.

A good friend set up a GoFundMe account for the two, named Daily life Right after Covid.

Neighbors have purchased groceries or presented enable with Jacob. One arrived in excess of to brush and braid Zepeda’s hair in advance of an interview. Her police captain at perform has checked in regularly with Warren and co-workers have stated how considerably they’re on the lookout forward to her return.

She attempts to digest all that, reconnect with Jacob and get to know her baby daughter, who’s presently sitting up and teething. Her husband is just happy to have her dwelling, soon after watching Zepeda teeter on the edge of loss of life and arrive back from it.

“You comprehend how much you skip and really like men and women when they are not here,” he mentioned.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

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