Ten-year-old Alexis Hoover has battled respiratory issues her entire life, often experiencing bouts of recurring pneumonia. In October 2022, after another pneumonia diagnosis, doctors put her on a heavy regimen of medications, the same she’d taken for past cases. But soon, Alexis would be fighting for her life.
After a weekend spent enjoying the fall weather, including a visit to the pumpkin farm, Alexis experienced a full-body tremor that her mother Ashley thought was a seizure. She rushed Alexis to the emergency room, where doctors checked her temperature and airways and determined that the tremor was related to the steroids she was taking.
But that night, Alexis spiked a fever of 104 degrees and her lungs became congested. Ashley, a former nurse, knew this wasn’t normal and began giving Alexis cool baths, cold compresses and nebulizer treatments to bring her temperature back to a normal range and decrease her lung congestion. “I’ve been doing this all my life, and I just knew that something was wrong,” she says. Eventually, she made the decision to take Alexis back to the hospital.
“She was crashing. When we got there, you could tell something wasn’t right because the nurse was very anxious,” Ashley says. “One thing led to another, and Alexis was moved to a trauma room.” It quickly became apparent that their small, local hospital wasn’t equipped to treat her, so she was life-flighted from Morris, IL, to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
By the time they reached St. Louis, Alexis was in septic shock. “Her blood gases were not compatible with life,” Ashley says. Alexis was immediately put on a VA-ECMO machine, which acts as a temporary circulatory support system to bypass the heart and lungs and give the body time to rebound. “This was like the worst-case scenario; basically, her heart and kidneys were failing,” Ashley says. “Being on that machine, she had a significant amount of blood transfusions to make sure that her body had the appropriate blood volume and components.”
During her 58-day hospitalization, Alexis received countless red blood cell, platelet and plasma transfusions to aid in her recovery. She spent 18 days on the ECMO machine, 22 days intubated, and had several strokes, a common side effect for patients on ECMO. “She was very sick. And then, miraculously, she started to get better,” Ashley says.
Gradually, Alexis’ health improved, and she was discharged from the hospital the Wednesday before Christmas. “While she was sick, we were so blessed to have so many people wanting to help us,” Ashley says. “There’s nothing other than praying that anyone can do—except to donate blood. If it wasn’t for those donors, she wouldn’t be here.”
Now, Ashley encourages people to donate blood and help other children like her daughter. “The perspective is so different once you’re on the other side. This gift you can give can literally save someone’s life,” she says. “That’s the reason miracles happen—because people are willing to give that gift and take that time.”
People need people, make a difference in someone’s life by donating blood.
We must rely on each other for the gift of blood, and patients in your community rely on the generosity of Versiti’s blood donors to help. Please consider scheduling an appointment to donate. If this is your first time, donating blood is quick, easy and relatively painless. And, it is a great way to give back and help patients in your community.