By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – With a can-do spirit that will serve as an inspiration to her students, Jaclyn Dennis, 31, of Wyandotte, survived COVID-19, a challenging pregnancy and a double-lung transplant with strong determination.
Dennis, a special education teacher with the Huron School District, was 35 weeks along in a pregnancy marked my preeclampsia, which includes an increase in blood pressure and sometimes trouble breathing, when she started feeling worse.
On Nov. 20, her husband took her to the emergency room at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital with a cough, headache and difficulty breathing, and when she tested positive for COVID-19, she was admitted.
A week later, 36 weeks into her pregnancy, labor was induced, and on Nov. 27, she gave birth to a healthy Mia Rose.
Dennis, however, was not healthy: She developed pneumonia, and was put on a ventilator. Two weeks later, she was transferred to the intensive care unit at Henry Ford Hospital, a level 1 trauma center, where she was put on a special breathing machine called an ECMO, which actually oxygenates a patient’s blood like an artificial lung.
Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at HFHS, credits the courage and persistence of the team to work aggressively with ECMO, which allowed her to be able to receive a double-lung transplant when it became available.
Her chance came Jan. 16, and the transplant was performed by Dr. Daizo Tanaka, a thoracic surgeon, and Dr. Dimitrios Apostolou, a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Nemeth said the damage to Dennis’ lungs, caused by the coronavirus, was the “worst he’s ever seen.”
Dennis, who is believed to be the first double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 survivor, said she is fortunate to be alive, and is thankful for the care she received from the Henry Ford team.
She credits her quick recovery to her medical team.
“No one expected me to leave the hospital so fast,” she said. “I just wanted to get home – I missed my husband and baby so much.”
Dr. Lisa Allenspach, medical director for the Henry Ford lung transplant program, said Dennis’ recovery and progress was amazing and inspirational.
“It has been a hard-fought battle on many fronts to get to this day,” she said. “Jackie’s positive attitude and will to survive, combined with the persistence and skill of the surgeons and medical teams, makes miracles happen.”
Ricky Dennis said it was scary and difficult when his wife’s health was deteriorating, especially when he couldn’t visit her because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was a scary whirlwind,” he said, which was made more challenging as he and family members cared for his newborn daughter.
Jaclyn Dennis, who coaches the cheer team at Huron High School, said the team’s theme song, an alternative/indie tune by BoysSetFire, inspired her during her long recovery. The title? “Bring Back the Fight.”