Coronavirus: SoCal nurse recovering from COVID-19 determined to return to work

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020
SoCal nurse recovering from COVID-19 after testing positive
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A nurse in Southern California is recovering after testing positive for COVID-19.

COLTON, Calif. (KABC) -- A nurse in Southern California is recovering after testing positive for the novel coronavirus and is determined to return to work.

Theresa Ornelas, 55, is an ER nurse at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton and says she and her co-workers took every precaution dealing with COVID-19 patients, but not with each other.

"We never thought about ourselves, we are walking down our hallways at work without our masks, and not thinking that it could be right there within us," Ornelas said.

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Two days after a co-worker tested positive, Ornelas started feeling symptoms.

"Within two days later I started to feel a lot of pain. Body pain, back pain," she said. "I thought it was my kidneys."

She began having trouble breathing and ended up in the intensive care unit at her own hospital.

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"As I was sitting in that hospital ICU, looking down the aisles, looking at people roll in on the gurneys, and on the ventilators, I felt like I was the lucky one," Ornelas said. "That God had definitely blessed me because I could breathe. I'm short of breath, but not like what I was seeing."

Ornelas has rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. One of the drugs she takes to control lupus, hydrochloroquine, may have helped keep her symptoms from getting worse. Now recovering at home, still short of breath, she says she can't wait to get back to work.

"I'm ready as soon as my health is good. I'm ready to go back. I'm ready to save lives. I'm ready to give it 100%," she said.

Ornelas has a simple message for all: stay at home.