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COVID-19 Survivor: 'Corona Is Real. It's Not A Myth'

Rosa Felípe tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020, and would later spend nine months at the same hospital she worked at, Jackson Memorial.
Rosa Felípe tested positive for COVID-19 in March, and would later spend nine months at the same hospital she worked at, Jackson Memorial.

Rosa Felípe worked at Jackson for 15 years, until March of last year, the last time that Felípe would see the outside world for a long time due to COVID-19.

Over the course of the pandemic, Rosa Felipe did not adapt right away to a different day-to-day life as many of us have.

Felipe created a foundation, La Asunción de la Esperanza, or the Rise of Hope, based in the Dominican Republic to serve people in Haiti. She has also worked for Jackson Health System for the last 15 years.

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But on March 20, Felipe had a major change to her day-to-day life and she would not see the outside world for a long time.

Below is a transcript of Rosa Felípe's story, in her own words. It has been lightly edited for clarity.

My name is Rosa Felípe, I'm 41 years old and I was a EEG technician at Jackson Health Systems. What EEG technicians do is that we measure brain waves and we check for seizures and other problems with the electricity in the brain and we relay that back to the neuro doctors.

I would work my shifts and would immediately go home and prepare my mother's meals because my mom is elderly and she's diabetic. So her food was separate from what my children ate. My oldest son, his name is Saiid, and he's 12. My youngest son, his name is Ishaan and he's five. So I was always on the go, always on my feet and always active.

Around the time that I got sick, corona was very, very new. The masks that we had, we had to use them for two weeks at a time because people were running out of PPE. So I was diligent in using my mask and using my gloves and washing my hands, as I've always been, but I started feeling that I had to clear my throat more often times.

"Ahem, ahem."

So I thought, man, I'm going to get an asthma attack because I have asthma. Well, Monday and Tuesday, I went to work normally. Wednesday and Thursday, I felt so bad that I stayed home. Friday, I took DayQuil. I was feeling a little bit better and I said, "Let me go into work." So I went into work, had my mask, had everything. I always wipe everything down with the [sanitizing] wipes, and I remember around midnight I felt like I couldn't breathe, so I used my asthma pump and that wasn't enough.

So then I said, "Let me go down to the ER." Once I got into the ER, the doctor then tells me that I'm presenting symptoms and that they would test me for coronavirus, but the only downfall to that would be that I would have to be admitted for four days because they didn't get the results until four days later.

I was like, "Man, it's my son's birthday today. I'm going to miss my son's birthday, but it's OK because I'm sure I don't have corona." This is what I was telling myself.

Well, then Monday came and I already knew I had it based on how the doctor dressed. When the doctor donned all this PPE and didn't even come in the room, he stuck his head in and he says, "Mamita, you're positive."

At that point, I felt shattered. I felt like everything I had done up until that point was like null and void because I still wound up getting it.

So he was reassuring me and he was telling me from the door that I was going to be OK, that I was going to be OK. Not to worry.

But then my headaches started getting really, really bad and I started not being able to lift my head up because of the headache. So I was just curled on the left side in one position trying to get the best comfort that I could get in the moment.

After that, my respiration became more labored and my oxygen levels kept dropping until the point that I was like basically sipping on air. I was just going "gasp gasp gasp."

And my pulse oximeter, the level reached 80, and that's when the doctor said that they would have to intubate me because I was going to have respiratory failure.

At that point, I asked the doctor for a piece of paper and a pencil, and I wrote a letter to my sons. I wrote to them that if something were to happen to me, I didn't want them to be angry with God. I wanted them to grow up and be, you know, really good boys, really good men, and to be appreciative that God gave us the time that he gave us and that whatever happened was going to be his will.

So I gave that to the doctor. In my head, I said, "I'm in your hands now, God," and I took off my contact lenses and I told them, "let's go."

And then I kept having hallucinations and dreams and nightmares.

I remember my brother speaking to me and telling me, "Rose, get up, you can do this, Rose, get up." And then I hear my husband saying, "Gorda, te amo." And I remember crying because I felt trapped. I wanted to respond and I couldn't verbalize anything.

And then the levels of pain that I was in because I didn't know that I had an ulcer that was down to the bone. There's just no words that can describe the level of pain I was in.

I was treated with so much kindness.

Nurses, therapists, psychologists, doctors during this pandemic don't get the credit that they deserve — from people who came to clean the room. Their level of care and commitment to me getting better was incredible.

A lot of people oftentimes ask me, "do I feel bad at the fact that I'm going to lose my fingers?" What's a couple of fingers when you get to hold your children again, when you get to hold your mother, when you get to be with your husband. Once these fingers fall off, I'm going to continue therapy and I'm going to find ways to get things done because I didn't come all this way to quit.

Corona is real. It's not a myth. It is killing us, and if wearing a mask can reduce that risk, please, by all means, wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distancing.

I was someone that was completely active, to now having to learn to walk again because the nerves in my ankles still haven't come back.

Now I have all these blood clots all over my body as a result of being intubated and laying in one position for so long. And I'm taking blood thinners, but I'm alive.

I get to see my kids, like last night when my little one hugged me. I just felt this immense amount of gratitude that I was able to experience that little hug.

The day of my discharge, I did not know that the whole therapy team was going to line up and give me the farewell that they gave me. And then when they were chanting my name and I saw them all standing there, I completely lost it. And then they were like, "Show them that you can walk it out, show them, get up, get up!" So they brought me a walker and I walked out.

I'm alive.

Let me tell you something, knowing now what corona can do to a body, I am more afraid of corona than what I am of the side effects of the vaccine.

———

Rosa Felípe was released from Jackson Hospital Dec. 8 after spending nearly nine months being treated for COVID-19.

Felípe said if her doctor tells her she may safely get the vaccine, she intends to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Rosa Felipe created the Rise of Hope Foundation, which is based in the Dominican Republic but serves people in Haiti.
Courtesy of Rosa Felipe. /
Rosa Felipe created the Rise of Hope Foundation, which is based in the Dominican Republic but serves people in Haiti.