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COVID-19: One Nurse as Patient’s Journey

By: Mariann Hisel, Ed.D.; MSN; MBA; RNC-OB; RNC-EFM; LCCE

Everyone on this earth has been affected by COVID-19. COVID-19 has changed the world. COVID-19 changed the world in how people interact with each other, how we treat science, how we respect public health, our political views, and our faith.  We have gone from “We are all in this together” … to “taking sides and not budging from our point of view.”  Faith (and knowledge) over Fear (and misinformation) is a good motto to live by. In fact, it is the only truism that helped me get through my personal journey with COVID-19.

My journey with COVID-19 started before I even developed symptoms. My journey started with me retiring from hospital nursing. I retired in 2016 after obtaining a doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership in Healthcare.  My focus post “retiring” was to serve my community. I serve by becoming a Faith Community Nurse and serving as the Health & Wellness Director at my church. I also serve as a volunteer at the McHenry County Medical Reserve Corp, County Health Department, and the American Red Cross. When COVID -19 began to spread throughout the country I was in perfect position to continue serving my community with current information, guidance, and support of Faith over Fear. Then as COVID-19 intensified, the hospital called me out of retirement to help the hospital’s Employee Health COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing Team.

In November of 2020, I realized that I could not taste my Thanksgiving dinner. I was tested for COVID-19. Even before the results came back as COVID-19 positive, my health started to deteriorate. Symptoms included cough, headache, nasal congestion, nausea, loss of smell and taste, fatigue, fever, muscle pain, dizziness, runny eyes, and shortness of breath (SOB).  I could not eat or drink anything. The SOB got worst, and I knew it was time to go to the Emergency Department (ED)- thinking that I just needed IV fluids to hydrate.

I was admitted into the hospital with COVID pneumonia and low oxygen levels. I was told the minimum amount of time I would be in the hospital was for five days. I was immediately started on oxygen and the Remdesivir COVID protocol. I was put in isolation. No visitors. My only contact was with the nurses, doctors, and clinical technicians. I last saw my husband (who also tested COVID-19 positive) when he dropped me off at the ED. I was grateful for my cell phone. My cell phone was my only communication to my family.

It was very humbling experiencing this entire process from the inside as being a patient. I was used to being the nurse and having some control over the care I provided for patients. This time I was at the mercy of my faith in God, the doctors and nurses, and the ever-changing science of COVID-19 treatments. I prayed to God for every cell of my body to be filled with health and healing. I also prayed for my husband to be filled with health and healing, since he was on his own COVID-19 journey at home.

At this time the TV was filled with all the statistics of COVID-19. All the people hospitalized and dying from COVID-19. I could not watch the news. I concentrated all my energy on trying to breathe and prayer. I became an observer of all that was going on from my isolation vantage point. I saw how difficult it was for the healthcare professionals to get all gowned up with their personal protective equipment (PPE) just to come into my room. I saw the toll it was taking on them as some of their other patients were deteriorating. Because I was a colleague-one of them, they could find brief refuge by coming into my room (and threatening me not to get worse). I hope I gave them some comfort and support in telling them how great they were doing and how grateful I and all the patients that couldn’t speak were for their care.

In the mist of all this chaos and tragedy, I as a patient, got to experience the best of the best in patient care. Being in isolation, with minimal contact was expected. What I did not expect was the way I felt calmed and “light” when Lisa the phlebotomy tech gently touched my hand (with a gloved hand) when she was done with the blood draw.  And when Deb, the Tech touched my shoulder after she changed my gown and bedding. The brief therapeutic touch changed my whole experience. It reminded me of my Faith Community Nurses training of the act of presence and the impact of God’s presence has over healing. I will never forget that a gentle touch made a significant difference and a huge impact in my patient experience and healing.

I was discharged after being hospitalized for five days. It took some time for me to get my strength back. However, after a year I still noticed some residual side effects of having COVID-19.  My taste is not back to normal. I still have occasional SOB, brain fog, dizziness, anxiety, and increased frustration with people that do not take COVID-19 seriously. When the SOB became significant, I was diagnosed with Long Haul COVID. I was referred to Christ Medical Center (CMC) Post COVID Recovery Clinic.

The Post COVID Recovery Clinic helped me realize that my post COVID symptoms were real and research is still needed to see what effect COVID-19 has long term on patient’s quality of life. I know my COVID-19 experience could have been so much worst. I was never on a ventilator. The medications worked and I did not die from COVID. I know I am so blessed to be alive. I also know I am not the same- physically, mentally, and spiritually post COVID.

Physically: my breathing has improved. My strength and stamina are improving. My taste is getting back to normal. Mentally: I have a slight cognitive impairment that others do not recognize, but I know my cognitive endurance is altered. Spiritually: My Faith is even stronger. Faith over Fear is clearer. God’s presence is felt. I am resilient.

My journey with COVID-19 continues. I am still working with the hospital Employee Health department, where I work with COVID-19 Team Members. I attend the Post COVID Recovery Clinic, where they monitor my pulmonary function, labs, and rehab. I attend speech therapy and I practice yoga and deep breathing regularly. Prayer is a daily practice. I feel so blessed that I am still able to serve my community and be a firsthand resource for COVID related health care issues.

Yes, COVID-19 has changed the world. People will never be the same as before COVID-19. However, with faith, hope, and love the people of the world can build resiliency and return to “We are all in this together” mindset.  I know that post COVID-19, I am a different person. I am resilient, I am hopeful, and my faith has magnified.



A joint project of Advocate Health Care & the OCEAN-HP at the University of Illinois at Chicago.