Local Grandmother Returns Home After Recovering From COVID-19

Trips between Tulare and Porterville became a regular occurrence for the family of Maria Ferrumpau when the Tulare resident became a patient of Sierra View Medical Center’s Distinct Part/Skilled Nursing Facility (DP/SNF). However, as of last week, the trips have stopped. In her 80s, Maria raised five sons and a daughter in Tulare after moving to the United States from Terceira, Azores, Portugal, decades earlier. As Maria and her family prepared to celebrate the holidays in December of 2020, she became unable to celebrate. She was hospitalized in Hanford following complications resulting from COVID-19. In February of 2021, she was transferred to Sierra View, where she made a temporary home while healing. Her family soon became regular visitors of the DP/SNF unit.

A recovery good enough to send Maria home seemed unlikely given her pre-existing health conditions and that she arrived at the DP/SNF unit on a large ventilator. Larger ventilators are used for patients that are more acute; including those suffering from COVID-19-related complications, but the family persisted in having hope. “She’s a fighter, she never gave up, and we never gave up on her,” says daughter-in-law Deanna Ferrumpau.

Maria’s son, Joe Ferrumpau, worked with his wife Deanna and the Sierra View DP/SNF team to find a way to get Maria off the ventilator. For many months throughout the pandemic, visitors were not allowed in the DP/SNF unit. There were times when Maria actually got worse and became a patient of Sierra View’s ER, Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and Medical/Surgical (Med/Surg) departments. The proximity between the DP/SNF unit and the hospital made those care transitions less difficult for the family. Not seeing her family was just as difficult for Maria as for every other patient unable to see loved ones throughout months with visitor restrictions imposed by statewide safety guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

However, everything changed for Maria when those visitor guidelines were updated to allow family members to visit facilities. “I think that was a big part for her,” says Respiratory Care Practitioner Lina Oliva. “When she started to see her family, her spirits lifted, everything just started changing.” For months, Joe dropped his father off with Maria after finishing his shift as a dairy manager in Tulare. Maria and her husband stayed together throughout the afternoon, and since Deanna works at the post office in Porterville, she would pick up her father-in-law on the way home. The next day, the routine would begin again. For Maria’s husband, spending time away from Maria was devastating. The couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this year.

Registered Nurse Marian Loflin attests that the family’s perseverance to find a way to take Maria home helped tremendously in her recovery as difficult as it may have seemed. Working with the medical director for the DP/SNF unit, Dr. Harpreet Sandhu, M.D., the nursing and respiratory care team at the DP/SNF unit helped successfully remove the large ventilator so that Maria could breathe on her own again as well as begin eating by herself. Maria’s gratitude began to show as she became able to use her facial gestures and even her hands. During her time at Sierra View’s DP/SNF, Maria crocheted a scarf for Marian and befriended her care team. Although Maria does not speak English, she routinely used her Portuguese to communicate with the Spanish speakers on her care team. DP/SNF Activities Director Jessie Hooks says there are two things that Maria particularly enjoys: Spanish-language soap operas and games involving monkeys on her tablet.

On Monday, October 4, 2021, Maria finally got to go home. With Maria now in Tulare, the Ferrumpau family feels blessed that Christmas in 2021 may be much more cheerful than the year prior. Most of the Ferrumpau family is now vaccinated against COVID-19. Of learning his mother had tested COVID-19 positive in 2020, Joe says, “It’s a hard thing to hear.” Now that his mother is home, he knows the whole family will once again enjoy her good company and traditional cooking. “Be careful, and get vaccinated,” says Joe.

Before leaving, Maria’s care team members lined up to take a farewell photo with her before she headed out. When asked how she felt on her way back to Tulare, Maria happily replied, “Muito bem, graças a Deus.” Translated from Portuguese, that means, “Very good, thank God.” Maria extends her gratitude to her entire care team for helping her get back home to her family.

Maria Ferrumpau’s journey is an extraordinary story of beating the odds. However, many COVID-19 patients have not been so fortunate. Currently, the best line of defense against COVID-19 is to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Sierra View Medical Center encourages community members to consider receiving the vaccine. For COVID-19 vaccination locations throughout Tulare County, please visit myturn.ca.gov. COVID-19 vaccination is also currently available at the Community Vaccination Clinic in Porterville operated by Sierra View Medical Center-Imperial Ambulance in partnership with Tulare County Health & Human Services. To learn more, please visit www.sierra-view.com/COVIDvaccines.

Kris Reddell, DNP, RN, CNML is the Director of Nursing at the DP/SNF unit. Gloria Lopez, RN is the Clinical Manager for the facility. To learn more about the SVMC DP/SNF team, please visit www.sierra-view.com/DPSNF