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Coronavirus survivor recalls harrowing experience of being on a ventilator for 16 days

Ann Langenfeld spent her 56th birthday in isolation at Massachusetts General Hospital while she recovered from COVID-19.Ann Langenfeld

Ann Langenfeld spent her 56th birthday in isolation at Massachusetts General Hospital while she recovered from COVID-19.

“I could not leave my room," she said. "I could not leave my bed.”

The Newton resident was gravely ill. Now, she is thankful to the staff at MGH and Spaulding Rehab for saving her life.

“These guys are risking their lives and health" to care for COVID-19 patients, she said. “They really are heroes.”

Langenfeld said she started feeling sick after she took a trip to New York City on March 4.

“I just thought I had the flu,” she said. But she developed a cough that got increasingly worse, and eventually started having trouble breathing. On March 15, her husband drove her to the emergency department at Mass. General.


“They sent me for a CT and X-ray, and my lungs were full of the disease,” she said. “They said that they had to put me on a ventilator right away.”

Langenfeld was put in a medically induced coma and spent the next 16 days on a ventilator.

“You go into what’s called a delirium kind of state,” she said. “You dream vividly, scary, terrifying, horrifying kind of almost like you’re … tripping out on some very severe LSD or whatever. I was trapped in a world that I couldn’t get out, [with] scary things, scary people, and events that took my children and my family.”

The experience was “the most scary thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” she said.

After she was taken off the ventilator, she still had a long road to recovery.

“I couldn’t even take steps for probably the first five or six days with two people helping me with a walker,” she said. “I was basically a brand -new baby.”

She came home April 17.


“I can’t thank all the staff at both facilities enough," she said. "They got me recovered enough to where I could sit up and stand up.”

Langenfeld is a mother of two girls, ages 16 and 21, and she’s happy to be back home with her family. She wants to share her story to educate people and let them know that the coronavirus needs to be taken seriously.

“It’s very, very contagious, and it’s something that people should be very afraid of,” she said.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.