INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis nurse is sharing her personal COVID-19 survival story. It is one of hope, generosity, gratitude and frustration.
Natalie Fitzgerald is a registered nurse in the Eskenazi Hospital burn unit, a mom to three kids and a COVID-19 survivor.
"I feel pretty remarkable," she said. "It was a pretty remarkable surviving story."
In March, when little was known of the coronavirus, Natalie felt sick for a week but her symptoms were not yet associated with COVID-19. She reluctantly called for an ambulance.
"I decided maybe I'm not really that sick and I'm afraid they are going to make fun of me when I get there," she explained.
But on the way to the ER, no one laughed at Fitzgerald's vital signs.
"I was, like, I'm not doing very well at all," she explained. "I'm going to get to the hospital and they are going to want to put a breathing tube in me."
Fitzgerald said she stayed calm until the moment before the doctor put her into a medically induced coma.
"It's at that moment I thought, 'I haven't called my family. I haven't called people. That I am going to be on this breathing machine. If something happens to me I haven't said goodbye to anyone. I could possibly die from this,'" she said.
Fitzgerald survived. After two weeks on a ventilator and another to recover, she got a joyous homecoming.
"I got to have hugs from my kiddos," Fitzgerald said. "My youngest son was running up to me."
Yet all she could think of was the potential dangers.
"I haven't had a shower in 21 days," Fitzgerald said. "I'd rather not have germs on me before we have any hugs."
Friends and relatives fed the family for six weeks. Co-workers donated their vacation time, so Natalie didn't go without a paycheck.
She's back at work now, wearing a face mask and trying to understand why so many people aren't.
"I get frustrated because I don't think people think COVID is serious," she said. "I worry that we are not seeing everyone as a human being right now. People are not willing to protect other people."
Fitzgerald said the ordeal made her a more compassionate nurse.
She hopes her survival story convinces others to take the struggle with COVID-19 as seriously as life and death.