Local COVID survivor recovering 1 year after complications


EDEN, N.C. (WGHP) — The odds were stacked against Tionna Hairston after doctors told her parents she’d been brain dead for 30 minutes due to complications from COVID-19. 

One year later, Hairston is alive and taking steps to get back to her old life. Despite the stroke, heart attack and at one point uncertainty if she would live, she’s taking back her life. 

A lot has changed a year after Hairston and her mom Stacey Peatross were both struck with COVID-19. 

“I’m shocked at the stuff I’m able to do now versus when I was in rehab,” Hairston said. 

Six months after leaving rehab, Hairston is sporting a new haircut, walking around her home without a walker and even riding a bike again. But getting here was not easy. 

“My daddy actually sent me a video of me lying in the hospital bed with all those tubes. I still cry off of that,” Hairston admitted. 

In May of 2020, she was infected with COVID-19 which caused a ripple of side effects, including a heart attack, a stroke and ultimately being pronounced brain dead for 30 minutes.  

She caught it after she was taking care of her mom who was also struck with the virus. 

“I’ve come a long way,” Hairston said. 

Before her diagnosis, she was living the life of your typical millennial. Enjoying her time with family and friends, performing spoken word and reading scriptures in their family prayer room. 

“I was almost moved out before my incident happened,” she said emotionally. 

A reality that’s still hard for the 25-year-old to swallow who is now undergoing speech, vision, occupational and physical therapies. 

“Every area of her brain was affected. She’s not even supposed to be smiling or talking to you right now,” her mom said. 

That smile is one that could brighten up any room. But on some days, it understandably fades. 

“It’s been a tough, tough journey watching her sometimes cry,” Peatross said. “Sometimes we get frustrated at each other because I can see her abilities and then trying to get her to see it, and she’s like, ‘I can’t do it,’ and I’m like, ‘we don’t say can’t.'” 

Hairston now has a nurse’s assistant to help her and her mom piece their lives back together 

“The hope is that I eventually get to return to work and that she can return to her independent lifestyle,” Peatross said. “To live again. Just be Tionna again. A different Tionna of course. A stronger Tionna.” 

Peatross said their story has even restored faith in some of the doctors who cared for her. 

Doctors tell them they now share her story as words of encouragement for families who are losing hope. 

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