‘An absolute miracle’

Nikki Matiskainen (on the stretcher) talks with her mom, Jill, as she returns home to The Oaks at Sherwood Park Monday, April 13. Matiskainen survived a harrowing battle with COVID-19.

Jill Matiskainen hadn’t seen her daughter Nikki in more than a month. When she finally did, on Monday, April 13, seeing Niiki was, unfortunately, all she could do.

“All I wanted to do was run up and hug her,” said Jill. The two attendants dropping Nikki off at The Oaks at Sherwood Park – dressed in white, full-body coveralls – had to tell her, “No.”

It was tough to hold back, but there were many reasons to celebrate. Nikki beat COVID-19 despite complications that had Jill contemplating funeral services a few weeks ago.

“Two of her doctors told me she was an absolute miracle,” Jill said. Nikki’s father is the late Marty Matiskainen and Nikki was a regular volunteer at Jill’s Gubser classroom for years.

Nikki, 42, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 19. Complications from the disease had become harder to manage and she planned to begin living at The Oaks after returning from a surgery in early March.

“The staff here were wonderful and she already knew some of the younger residents. We came in and decorated her room with wolves before she went in for the surgery,” Jill said.

Nikki checked in to Silverton Hospital for the surgery in early March and returned to The Oaks without issue. Two days later, she was taken to the emergency room after a fever spiked and her breathing became labored. Forty-eight hours later, Nikki was tested for COVID-19 and the positive results were returned three days after that.

Nikki spent the next 16 days on a ventilator in the intensive care unit at Salem Health.

“It got very, very bad,” Jill said. “She was on dialysis and her liver was failing. We didn’t think she would make it.”

Nikki’s condition continued to deteriorate, but then her body started, unexpectedly, fighting back.

Friends and family turned out to welcome Nikki Matiskainen home Monday, April 13.

As her condition improved, Nikki was moved to a regular room where she continued to recuperate. She was met by friends and family in The Oaks’ parking lot when she returned Monday. They held signs and balloons and shouted greetings.

Nikki was still weak, but managed to hold her own in a brief conversation with relatives.

The Oaks staff are contending with one of Oregon’s largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. The Oregon Department of Human Services revealed April 11 that The Oaks was sixth on the list of nine facilities with five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases. It currently has 14 ongoing cases of the virus, but it is not known if Nikki contracted the virus at The Oaks or sometime during her hospital stay for surgery.

Regardless of where Nikki contracted the illness, Jill was overwhelmed to have reached the opposite shore in a long, emotionally draining journey.

“Just being here today, waiting for her to arrive, is such a relief. When she was in the ICU, she was very weak and could barely talk,” Jill said. “It’s been such a rollercoaster of good days and bad days, and Nikki is just the sweetest person in the world. Knowing I will be able to talk to her soon – knowing she is going to make it – is amazing.”