REACH Stories

Minerva Medina

Happy to Breathe Again

Minerva Medina

Minerva and Domingo Medina live about 50 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas. Minerva is a willing conversationalist, answering questions and sharing stories in tones ranging from enthusiastic to vulnerable to tickled pink. The vitality she exudes is contagious, which might not be what you’d expect from a 67-year old woman who has spent more time in hospitals over the past few years than she can recall. But to be fair, she was unconscious through much of it. “I’ve been through so many of those experiences!” Minerva says.

As most asthmatics would agree, Minerva says there’s nothing scarier than not being able to breathe. She describes what it’s like when she has a serious episode. “I’ll be breathing, and then it’s like my chest is against a wall. I can’t get any air, and I get really scared. Then I have an anxiety attack. And then I pass out.”

Minerva has taken four Methodist Air Care helicopter flights during the past four years, with multiple trips by ground ambulance or car sandwiched in between. “The hospital staff and the flight teams, they work really fast with me,” she says. “Since I’m out, I don’t even know how much they are doing to help me, but my husband watches and tells me afterwards.”
The Medinas have four children and many grandchildren…somewhere close to 20. “My baby daughter has a daughter who just turned one, and she’s either number 18 or number 19,” Minerva says, once again doing the math in her head. “And we have 10 great grandkids.”

In January, when Minerva was received at Frio Regional Hospital in especially poor condition, it was suggested that perhaps that family should be contacted. Minerva was already unconscious, and her color was changing from normal to blue. Doctors promptly contacted Methodist Air Care. “I didn’t know who was on the flight team, because I’d passed out,” Minerva says. To underline her point she adds, “If I had died, I wouldn’t have known. I only know I’m alive because I woke up. And I know the flight team called afterwards to see if I was okay.”

Methodist AirCare Pilot Steven Powell was on hand to transport Minerva Medina to the hospital for needed care. Methodist AirCare Pilot Steven Powell was on hand to transport Minerva Medina to the hospital for needed care.

That flight team was Methodist Air Care Pilot Steven Powell, Flight Nurse Stefanie Cruz and Flight Paramedic Zach Harman. “They did a lot of things to bring me back,” Minerva says, “and I’m always thinking about them. I feel so grateful for all their work.”

Domingo shares, “It’s unbelievable the way they were working to help my wife. I have never seen people work the way they did, so fast and so perfect. I was amazed to see her turn from blue to her natural color.”

Domingo had some trepidation the first time a flight team came for his wife. “The first time we transported her, he was very apprehensive,” Stefanie remembers. “But I think he was just terrified of losing her. I think they’ve been together forever. When he saw that he could trust us, he relaxed, and things go very smoothly now.”

Flight Paramedic Zach Harman says, “When we got there, Minerva wasn’t moving much air. We gave her medication and put her on a BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure, a non-invasive form of ventilation), and that turned her around quite well.” He adds, “Asthma is just one of those conditions that has to be treated quite aggressively; you can’t wait. And as soon as you do the right thing, you see the positive changes almost instantly.”

Zach, who originally wanted to be a firefighter, is happy to have found his niche with Methodist Air Care. “I went to the fire academy,” he shares, “and they made me go to EMT school, which I really didn’t want to do. But I ended up falling in love with EMS and decided to gear my education toward being a flight paramedic. I knew it was the best of the best, and this is a great company to work for.

Methodist AirCare Flight Nurse Stefanie Cruz is one of Minerva Medina's fans. Methodist AirCare Flight Nurse Stefanie Cruz is one of Minerva Medina's fans. "She's a fighter, and that makes our job easier."
I can’t thank the AirCare EMTs enough for helping my wife breathe again. If I may say so, they are angels in disguise.
Domingo Medina, Minerva's husband of nearly 52 years

Although Minerva was unconscious for several days, she stuck with her good habit of bouncing back. “When my husband got there and saw that I was awake, he started crying.” And then she starts crying herself. “I’m going to get emotional here,” she says. “On January 4, Domingo and I will have been married for 52 years.”

Stefanie loves Minerva’s tenacious resilience. “If it weren’t for the fighter she is, these successful outcomes wouldn’t be possible. And I just want her to know that she’s a fighter, and that it makes our job easier.” Apparently Stefanie is but one of Minerva’s many fans. “The hospital staff loves her,” Stefanie shares. “They’re always telling me that she’s the sweetest thing ever, and that she makes them cakes!”

Minerva confirms the rumor. “In January, the first thing I did when I got home was make a coconut meringue pie. And you know what? I don’t even like sweets! ” A moment later, she confesses, “Except I do love an Almond Joy.”

Of her care providers, Minerva says, “They do so much, all of them. The flight teams, the people at the hospital—all of them.”

Stefanie is grateful to be one of that crew; she clearly takes great joy in her work. When asked to share the most challenging part of the job, she can only come up with one thing. “It’s just hard not being able to do it every day,” she states. “I don’t ever not want to go to work. And on my days off, I get jealous when I see a helicopter fly overhead. But there’s always the potential to save lives; I don’t have to be at work. My kids got to see me pull a guy from a burning car. They like it that they can tell people, ‘My mommy saves lives!’”

Domingo can attest to that. “I can’t thank the Air Care EMTs enough for helping my wife breathe again. If I may say so, they are angels in disguise.”

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