Tift Regional employee struggles, survives COVID-19

Tift Regional employee struggles and survives against COVID-19

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - According to healthcare professionals, the coronavirus is an illness that can impact young and old people alike.

One of the youngest and sickest COVID-19 patients treated at Tift Regional Medical Center is now finishing her nursing degree to help others.

“I thought it was just a bad case of the flu. I stayed at home until I couldn’t really fight the fever and all that off. So, I went to the hospital on March 31," explained Chelsie Turrubiartez.

Chelsie is a patient care technician at Tift Regional Medical Center.

Within hours of being admitted to the hospital where she worked, Chelsie was transferred to the intensive care unit and intubated.

She was diagnosed with COVID-19, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

“It felt weird having to have my co-workers take care of me, but I also knew that I would be well taken care of because everyone at Tift Regional is so good," said Chelsie.

Just days later, Dr. Rubal Patel at Tift Regional started trying to find a facility that could offer Chelsie a special type of oxygen treatment called ECMO.

Chelsie was taken by ambulance to the University of Florida to receive the treatment.

“And then, after being there for about 20 days, I got a call from the ICU at Gainesville, asking if, well, we’ll take Chelsie back to continue our care at our hospital and that was one of the happiest days that we had," said Dr. Patel.

After extensive therapy, Chelsie was discharged from Tift Regional, surrounded by her work family.

“It hit me that I went through a month-long battle for my life and I’m finally getting to go home and see my family that I haven’t seen in a month. Seeing everybody support me and kind of cheer for me, that I survived such a struggle was so heartwarming and happy to see," Chelsie explained.

Sign outside of Tift Regional
Sign outside of Tift Regional (Source: WALB)

Rather than letting her near-death experience define her life, Chelsie is using the experience to help others.

“It helped push me in the direction of critical care because before this I was like, ‘No thank you. Critical Care is not for me.’ But because of all this and seeing the wonderful nurses that took care of me and helped me get over COVID, it has helped push me in the direction of maybe doing critical care in the future,” said Chelsie.

Chelsie is set to receive her Associates of Nursing from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College at the end of this semester.

She wants to work at Tift Regional post-graduation.

Copyright 2020 WALB. All rights reserved.