Springfield, Mo woman reveals long battle with COVID-19

X-rays document progress of virus’ attack on her lungs
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 10:04 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - One of Mercy’s very first COVID-19 patients is battling to recover from the virus five months after she contracted the disease.

Many of us think this thing is something you beat in a week or two. Danna Lunday knows better and now she’s trying to help others. In the heart of spinning dials, humming refrigerators and hands pumping blood, there’s a woman on a mission.

“If I can help somebody get one more day on this earth..., then, I’m going to do it,” remarked Danna Lunday at the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks.

Danna Lunday may be carrying a potent weapon against the pandemic in her body; convalescent plasma.

She remembers when the virus first hit her, “I’m sitting on the floor in the bathroom saying I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Danna went from just fine to hospitalized at Mercy Hospital in March. COVID-19 took her lungs from clear to cloudy in just days. Her doctor wanted her on a ventilator. Her friend told her to do it.

“She said Danna you have a 50-50 percent chance with a ventilator. If you go on it..., everything is even, " remembers Danna.

She had her first x-ray on March 23.

“What we are seeing here is what you would call a normal chest x-ray,” explained Mercy Pulmonologist Dr. Madhu Pendurthi.

It would get worse for Danna, much worse in just days.

“This is six days later on the mechanical ventilator. You can see these opacities have become much more prominent,” Dr. Pendurthi pointed out in the video. “So, whenever you see black here, this is air. That’s how a normal lung pattern looks.”

Paul Adler comments, “That’s what you want to see?” “Yes, And, here.. this isn’t normal,” explained the doctor. “Cloudy looking?,” Paul asks for clarity. “Cloudy looking,” doctor agrees.

Weeks later, Danna finally pulled out of the worst of it.

“I cannot tell you what day it was. I can tell you what day I came off of it. That was April 6. They handed me back my phone and it was my oldest daughter and she broke down and cried,” Danna told us. “My mom tells me every day... You’re a walking miracle and you’re here for a reason.”

But, as spring turns toward fall, nobody knows if Danna will have long term damage from COVID-19. The virus hasn’t given up its grip on her lungs.

“We see these patchy spaces which are white. These are three months later,” Dr. Pandurthi explained as we looked at a CT scan.

“They’re messed up. They’re all scarred up.” adds Danna.

Danna will be checked out every three months for oxygen levels and lung function.

But, despite her best attempt to help others. She won’t be able to donate convalescent plasma just yet. Her numbers are just too low. “I’m gonna work on that to make sure I can do that. If I can save a life. I want to do this,” declared Danna.

Danna tells us her walks are still hard. She gets tired very easily. She says if she’s not better by January, she’ll have to go on medicine.

Meantime, the Mercy doctor and researchers at The Mayo Clinic both say there are still many questions about how and why COVID-19 hits some people harder and for a longer time period than others.

Mercy Hospital, The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks and The American Red Cross - Springfield Blood Donation Center are all involved in a convalescent plasma study. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you may be able to donate and possibly save lives. You can find a participating center closest to you here.

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