``Disappointed, I left the ICU paralyzed and today I run all day at the events I produce'

“Disappointed, I left the ICU paralyzed and today I run all day at the events I produce’

Claudia Sayuri Kojima in an August 2022 photo (Photo: Personal Archive)

“I am a chef and culinary entrepreneur. My husband, Flávio, is also a chef and we worked together when the pandemic started. In fact, we worked so hard that I didn’t even realize that something serious was going on in the restaurant, I called a lot of people, and I don’t know exactly how And when, but I ended up getting injured.

It was March 2020, and we didn’t even know we needed to wear a mask and gel alcohol. After the carnival, when businesses started closing their doors, we closed ourselves at home, as instructed by Anvisa. This is when I started feeling weird. I thought it was the allergic rhinitis I had, and started treating myself. But unlike other crises, my condition did not improve. On the contrary, he felt more and more tired. So I went for a CT scan with a doctor friend of my mother-in-law. When he saw the exam, he took a step back. “I think you have the virus,” he said. I was afraid, but the worst was yet to come: “Your lungs are at 30% risk.”

I was a bit sedated, I didn’t know what to expect from this disease. He told me to go home, self-isolate, and come back two days later for another CT scan. I spent the weekend lying around, couldn’t eat or shower. I felt as if no air had entered my body. I got to the new exam even worse. “Your lungs are 70% scattered,” said the doctor, terrified.

Claudia Sayuri Kojima and her son Arthur (Photo: Personal Archive)

Claudia Sayuri Kojima and her son Arthur (Photo: Personal Archive)

Hospital treatment was supposed to be immediate, but I was stubborn. If I had to be hospitalized, it would be in Mogi das Cruzes (SP), where I was born. I thought: “If I die, I die near my family.” The next morning, my sister, who is a physical therapist, called me. “Either you go to the nearest hospital,” he said emphatically, “or maybe you don’t have time.”

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On March 30, 2020, I was admitted to the Emílio Ribas Hospital, which specializes in infectious diseases. I went straight to the intensive care unit. The Covid test confirmed the diagnosis: I was really one of the first to be infected in Brazil. Without much thought of what was going on, every two hours nurses checked in for oxygen measurements.

On April 4, the news she feared most arrived: she must be intubated, after which she will go into an induced coma. My son Arthur will be six the next day, and I won’t be there. But I accepted the intubation, there was nothing I could do. It wasn’t until the process began that the penny dropped. “Wait another two minutes,” she repeated frightfully to the team, as if she could postpone the inevitable.
Two weeks later, I tested again and no longer had the virus. But my ordeal was just beginning.

“Convinced that I could not resist, the doctors called my husband to have a conversation. They asked him to prepare our son for the worst”

When they went to undo my posture, I had what the doctors thought was a stroke. With my brain swelling, they decided to keep me under the tube and do a tracheostomy. It has been 52 days in the deepest coma that exists. I had three arrhythmias and on the third day my heart reached 200 beats. I almost had to leave. Because the team didn’t know what had an effect, it became a study tool. I’ve taken every drug imaginable, and as a result, my liver has been compromised. So I had to have 12 dialysis and three blood transfusions.

 Claudia Sayuri Kojima (Photo: personal archive)

Claudia Sayuri Kojima with her husband Flavio and their son Arthur during his recovery (Image: Personal Archive)

Convinced that I wouldn’t be able to resist, the doctors called my husband for a chat. He was asked to prepare our son for the worst. They thought it was unlikely that I would get out of there alive. Then I got an infection in hospital with a high temperature. They were about to throw in the towel, but they didn’t give up on me. At that moment, they took action that would be the beginning of the end. They left me in a cold room to cool off my body, treating children with a high temperature for a maximum of a day. I stayed at three or four, but I finally echoed. I went back to the intensive care unit.

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A few days later I opened my eyes during the examination. She was awake, but had no idea of ​​anything. It was as if my mind was completely separated from my body. They called Flávio again, but the news wasn’t much better. Maybe I’ll come home one day, but I’m very different from when I came. Perhaps vegetation and indefinitely.
From there, the stimulus work began for me to come back. Doctors ran tests and messed with me. But I did not answer. My family used to send me voice messages for me to listen to. Until one Sunday, Mother’s Day, I heard a voice in the distance asking for my son’s name. Somehow, that woke me up. I looked at the doctor and could see her partying with the team and she said, “She sees us.” I burst into tears. And I cried like a baby.

My mind went back and forth for the rest of the stay. Alternating moments of conscious and subconscious. Throughout the coma, I remember that I always had two people with me. Neither good nor bad, but they were there the whole time and they weren’t hospital staff. For me, it was like I was living a parallel life. I went to several places, I even saw myself in the morgue in front of the hospital. I looked out the window of that obsessive place and saw Flavio and some friends on the street. I begged them to get me out of there. Other times, they tried to keep me alive in a room where I was dead.

“After 65 days in hospital, I was finally released. But I didn’t move anything from my neck down and no one knew if I’d walk again”

I’ve always been spiritual, but I went out into religion before I got infected with the virus. During my absence, Flavio would go to the Spirit Center to participate in prayer for me. There they said I’m fine and I don’t want to go back. But what I later understood was that, for me, I had forgotten that I was in a trance, and I was somewhere else, living other things – in fact like a parallel reality. I thought I was going crazy. He was desperate. The combination of the spiritual experience with the psychological change of a person returning from a very strong sedation.

While I was in the hospital, Flavio used to go to the hospital every day. Unable to see me, he stayed at the door to receive the news. He had to stop working to take care of me and our son.
On June 3, after 65 days in the hospital, I was finally discharged. I just didn’t move anything from my neck down, and no one knew if I’d ever be able to walk again. Flavio came to pick me up very early. On the way out, I asked, “Will I be able to drive someday?” I thought if I got a paraplegic that would be cool, because I know there are predisposed cars out there. But quadriplegia, no. In fact, what I wanted was a sense of freedom.

Claudia Sayuri Kojima with her husband Flavio and their son Arthur (Image: Personal Archive)

Claudia Sayuri Kojima with her husband Flavio and their son Arthur (Image: Personal Archive)

The way home was difficult. I felt so weak, we had to stop a few times. I weighed 40 kilograms, 20 kilograms less than when I entered the hospital, and I was wearing diapers. My husband even asked if I wanted to go back to the hospital, but I didn’t think about doing so. I miss my son. She had spoken to him for the first time just two days before he was discharged.

We got home and Arthur wouldn’t even let me out of the car. He ran and hugged me and got on my knees. He threw himself on top of me, shouted and repeated: I love you, I love you. The effect of seeing me in this position also left its mark on him. My son became anxious and started sleeping with me every night for fear of leaving. He helped take care of me, push the wheelchair, and was amused that I was wearing a diaper. For a while, I had to take food into the mouth of Flávio, who cleaned and showered me. patiently cheerful.

A week after coming out, I started rehab in Santa Casa, all through SUS. I was surprised to see how amazing the Brazilian system is, with so many wonderful people around. Because of them I am here today. For the dedication of everyone, who never gave up on me.
I was able to truly get back on my feet and take my first steps at the end of September, infinitely faster than the doctors’ most optimistic expectations. To this day I cry when I see a video of my short walk. During treatment, I tried not to think about tomorrow. Just did what had to be done. Not in a hurry. This helped a lot in a speedy recovery. But not only. I was happy. Riding in the car and looking up at the sky was a gift for me. There was no room for bad thoughts.

To restore the movements of the hands, he played with clay with Arthur. So I got tired and decided to make Spanish croquetas with my husband. I did and rolled. We started selling online, in addition to liking the recipe, people bought it to help us. Thus, between one system and another, I gained movement and gradually returned to work. I started accepting some jobs, a party here, dinner there, and even participating in big events. But I never want to work as intensely as I used to, when I spent at least ten hours in the restaurant. I want more time for myself.

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Doctors discovered that what I had was not a stroke, but encephalitis encephalitis, which left a small piece of necrotic midbrain. Even today, I have the weakest memory. Also, I get tired faster, both physically and mentally. I think if I hadn’t caught the virus, something else would have made me stop life. Now I can see a silver lining in all of this. I’m a more focused person who doesn’t keep things to himself. I recently went back to Emílio Ribas and the doctors told me they saved a lot of people thanks to the experiments they performed on my body.

I am involved in all the logistics of our new facility, the Wine House. We also have a buffet and Flávio is the Executive Chef for a range of restaurants. But I no longer work as fast as I used to. I don’t think much about the future either, I’ve learned to live in the present. I want to travel again, visit countries I don’t know, and live a balanced life again – both in health and financially. But I think what I really want is not to be afraid. I think I experienced a miracle. Now I just want to be happy.”

Claudia Sayuri Kojima (Photo: personal archive)

Claudia Sayuri Kojima (Photo: personal archive)


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