One young woman’s long, rough journey to recovery


As we transition seasons from winter to spring, many of us are feeling “under the weather.” Many of our sinuses are “acting up” and colds are not to hard to catch. Which is why many of us head to the local department store to pick up the usual medications to remedy our symptoms.

Some of us, though, stay sick too long and head to the emergency room. This is similar to what happened to Miata Smith.

Miata is a 20-year-old sophomore at Concordia University in Saint Paul. She is currently majoring in early childhood education. Nothing excites Miata more than children and dancing. She enjoys spending time with friends and family doing fun things like watching movies. Miata is the typical young, Black female with her life journey ahead of her.

However, on November 6, 2013 everything came to a halt for Miata. What started off as a seemingly uneventful evening led to Miata visiting a hospital emergency room and then being admitted to its Intensive

Munah Wotorson-Smith (Miata’s mother), left,  with Miata Smith Photo by Brandon Jones
Munah Wotorson-Smith (Miata’s mother), left,
with Miata Smith
Photo by Brandon Jones

Care Unit (ICU) three days later.

Miata was diagnosed with an extremely rare strain of pneumonia, so rare it does not even have a name. The pneumonia was not caught right away by the medical doctors due to its rarity, and Miata ended up being a lot more ill than perceived, with acute respiratory failure and kidney shutdown.

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. You may cough, run a fever, and have a hard time breathing. You can get pneumonia in your daily life, such as at school or work. Bacteria or viruses usually cause pneumonia. It usually starts when you breathe the germs into your lungs.

On November 9, Miata’s kidneys shut down. By November 16, Miata remained in ICU and was given a five percent chance to live. She was in an induced comma on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine to replace her lung functioning. She was placed on a lung transplant list on Sunday, November 17, by a miracle got a matching donor on Monday, and was in surgery to replace her lungs on Tuesday.

However, it was not over yet. Miata was in a coma until mid-December. She was able to spend Christmas with her family and was discharged from the hospital on February 19.

The road to recovery has been very long and rough for Miata. Since her initial visit in November, ventilation, dialysis, placement on an ECMO machine, and a nine-hour transplant surgery where Miata received two new lungs have been part of this unforeseen journey.

She’s had to relearn everything. Miata had to do physical therapy to learn to daily physical activities and walk again. She had to do speech therapy to learn how to speak again. All of Miata’s day-to-day basic living skills had to be relearned.

Miata’s kidneys have not improved, and she is currently on the wait list to receive new ones. Miata is also active in dialysis. She is looking for a living African American donor now.

Miata and her family are looking for all the support they can get — especially a kidney donor. Miata wants to encourage everyone to attend regular medical check ups and consider being organ donors. There are not enough African American donors.

Through sickness and through health, we must consider how we can benefit one another as a community.


Community members wanting to help Miata can do so in two ways: (1) by making a direct donation to the Wells Fargo account established as Miata Benefit Trust, and (2) by visiting Miata’s Caring Bridge Site for more information: www.caring

Brandon Jones M.A. is a mental health practitioner. He welcomes reader responses to or follow him on twitter @UniversalJones.

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