Dizzy Teen Begs Mom to Get Her from School. Soon after, Crying 'Red Blood Tears'


Kansas high school student Zei Uwadia, 16, had her future ahead of her. Ready to graduate early and begin studying dermatology, she was more determined than ever before.

But one day in October 2017, everything would change. She suddenly felt very sick and asked her mom to pick her up from school.

“I got a text message around noon from her that said, ‘I just don’t feel good; can Nana come pick me up? I just feel light-headed and dizzy and sick,’ and I said, ‘yeah, I’ll see if I can get a hold of her,’” her mom Brie Kerschen said.

“Then her next text was, ‘Please hurry.’ I remember because I still have that text.”

In the next few days, Zei suddenly had difficulty breathing. Her mom took her to the ER, where her tests came back as normal with no signs of a bacterial infection.

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She was then transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for a second opinion. There, they learned her oxygen levels were extremely low.

Zei was quickly put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, otherwise known as the highest form of life support. The machine helps her to breathe and is keeping her alive as doctors look for the cause of her illness.

“What we know is that all of her lung tissue on both sides is affected. What we don’t know is what caused it,” her doctor said. “We have investigated both infectious diseases — rheumatological, immunological, primary pulmonary diseases — and we have not come up with the answer yet. So we continue to try to reach out to other centers and have big collaborative discussions to figure out what is wrong with Zei.”

But while ECMO is giving her lungs and her body a chance to heal, there are side effects.

“She has to have thin blood to remain on the machine, and so the thinning of her blood is what makes her able to circulate her blood through this plastic tubing and not clot. That same blood thinning is what causes her to bleed, and so people can actually pass away on ECMO from bleeding,” her mom said.

“She’s cried red blood tears, and she’s had bloody noses, and we’ve gone through those things, but we’ve made it,” she said.

For respiratory failure cases, the most patients survive an average of 21 days on ECMO. So far, Zei has surprised her doctors with her resilience with the “longest ECMO run” the hospital has ever seen.

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Zei has also shocked doctors in her recovery. By December, she was alert and her health began to improve. But Zei was determined to do more than just improve. She wanted to walk.

“We were in Zei’s room, and she had been marching in place for a little bit, and she looked at me with very little voice … and just said, ‘What do I have to do to walk?’ And I told her ‘if you can stand unassisted for five minutes, I’ll figure it out,’ ” her doctor said. “Not only did she stand for five minutes, she had to beat me, she stood unassisted for seven minutes.”

She was the first patient the hospital had that sat up, stood, and even walked on ECMO.

While on life-support, Zei has also started exercising more and trying the things she loved to do before being in the hospital. So far, she has been lifting weights, eating tacos, and even getting her nails done.

“When she first took her first steps in the hallway, I’m pretty sure I cried, and then you could probably also hear my laughter,” her mom said. “I really am convinced that that saved her life, and not to be dramatic, but I think the fact that she’s able to walk is why she’s still here.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Zei and her family during this time as she continues to recover and heal.

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Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
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