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The first few days after Sheila Thornsberry was diagnosed with the new coronavirus, COVID-19, were tiresome, but manageable. She had the now-classic symptoms — a fever, aches and pains — and was resting at home, isolated from her husband Ron to reduce his risk of contracting the virus.

Then, as they watched TV in separate rooms one night, Sheila suddenly felt her oxygen level drop over the course of a half hour and texted Ron, “I can’t breathe.”

From then on, Sheila barely remembers anything — not the drive to the emergency room, not getting intubated and put on a ventilator as soon as she got there nor the 18 days she spent on the ventilator. Sheila, a NCCPA-certified physician assistant who has worked at an urgent care clinic in Lexington, Kentucky for almost 23 years, recovered from COVID-19 after a lengthy hospital stay, but is urging people to “take it seriously.”

Sheila does not remember much of her hospital stay until the 18th, when they took her off the ventilator for good.

“I remember thinking, okay, this thing is coming out and staying out,” she says.

Sheila stayed at the hospital to make sure that she was breathing okay on her own, and that the virus didn’t suddenly begin to attack her kidneys or her heart or brain, as it has in other patients.

There were also two rules before she could leave — two COVID-19 tests had to come back negative, and she had to be able to walk out of the hospital without the help of a wheelchair.

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