Delaware teacher beats COVID-19 after year long fight, heads back to classroom

Her case was so severe that she spent 97 days on ECMO, an extreme form of life support.

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Friday, August 26, 2022
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"It's kind of hard to put into words because I don't have a memory of anything from September to the beginning of January," said Bri Iacona.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Delaware woman is returning to the classroom after spending almost a year battling and recovering from an acute case of COVID-19.

Bri Iacona, who had to have heart surgery and a double lung transplant at the University of Pennsylvania, has done more than beat the odds.

"It's kind of hard to put into words because I don't have a memory of anything from September to the beginning of January," said Iacona.

Her case was so severe that she spent 97 days on ECMO, an extreme form of life support that allows the sickest COVID patients a chance at survival.

That was followed by heart surgery to clear a blood clot and a double lung transplant.

She tested positive after the first week of school in 2021.

"I thought it was a possibility I would (contract COVID), and we took all the precautions to keep ourselves safe," she said.

"When we looked at her images early on, we realized she would have no likelihood of any meaningful recovery of lung function. In the absence of lung transplantation, she would have died," said Dr. Joshua Diamond, associate medical director of the lung transplant program at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Diamond was part of the medical team that saved Iacona.

She spent months in the hospital, then did both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation to build up her strength. She can now walk two to three miles on her own.

"It's pretty amazing to watch the progress from when she first started in rehab to even seeing her now," said Jaclyn Golato

Now Iacona, a teacher in Cecil County, Maryland, is finally heading back to the classroom this month.

An air purifier has been installed in her classroom, and she must wear a mask at all times.

But it's the badge of beating the odds is one she humbly wears.

"I made it through and other people can as well. Things can seem hopeless, but if you keep pushing through you can find the hope you need," she said.

Iacona attributes her medical team, along with her husband and son with helping her beat the odds.