Colorado Woman Reflects On Leaving Hospital After Treatment For COVID-19
On Monday, North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley released its 100th patient from the hospital after recovering from COVID-19, to applause from nurses and doctors. Her name is Josie Rocha. She was in the hospital for almost a month and spent more than a week on a ventilator.
Josie, along with her son, Jess Ponce, spoke to Colorado Edition about their experience.
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Erin O'Toole: Let me start, Josie, by asking you: how are you feeling now?
Jocie Rocha: I'm feeling a lot better.
There's a video clip of you leaving the hospital. what did that moment felt like for you?
Rocha: It felt really good to be getting out of there and coming here to start my therapy. I'm praying to God that I get better so I can go home to my children and my grandkids.
Jess Ponce: I'm ecstatic that she's soon going to be coming home. I've missed her so much and my daughter's missed her so much. I was down for such a long time — down and depressed. All I could do was pray the whole time. That's the only thing that helped me get through.
Rocha: It seems like we've both been through this together. It's very hard.
When did you start feeling sick and what symptoms were you feeling?
Rocha: I used to look on the internet for coronavirus. And then one day I told myself: I've got that. I know I've got that, because I've got the symptoms. So my kids took me to the doctor, and then Jess took me back a second time. That's when they said I did have the coronavirus. It was miserable. I felt so bad.
When you started feeling sick, did you suspect that it might be the coronavirus?
Ponce: I took her to the ER on March 17th. When I took her that night, about 11 o'clock, they said she had a viral infection. They gave her a sedative and sent her home. The sedative hid her symptoms. It just made her sleep.
She woke up the next day and I called the ER again and said she still wasn't feeling good. I asked if I should bring her back. They told me with everything that's going on it'd be better not to bring her back. So I waited another day and she got worse. I called the hospital and made a clinic appointment. There was a doctor there she saw named Dr. Weiss. He admitted her into the hospital right away. That was on March 19th.
And Josie, what was your experience like in the hospital once you were admitted?
Rocha: When I was admitted, I was just — I was just scared. I thought I was going to die. I was frightened. It was a terrible, terrible time. I hope I can get this out of my mind, but it'll probably stay in my mind forever.
It sounds like Jess was there right from the start. Your mom was in the hospital. What was the experience like for you?
Ponce: It was horrible. The worst part about it was that I couldn't go in there with her. I couldn't see her or spend time with her. When she was put on that ventilator, that just broke my heart completely.
And how long was she on the ventilator?
Ponce: About eight or nine days. Maybe 10. I'm not even sure. She was completely out. She was in an induced coma the whole time.
I imagine you have no memory of that time. But what stands out to you, Josie, from your time in the hospital?
Rocha: The doctors and the nurses were real good to me. They'd tell me not to worry, not to be scared. And that there'd be a day when I would come out of all of this.
And Jess, you couldn't see your mom in person. But were the doctors giving you advice? Were you able to communicate with your mom at all?
Ponce: Just by what the nurses and the doctors told me and my sister and my brother about it. I called all the time to check on her, probably about five times a day. They probably got tired of me calling them. But they were real good with giving me information.
One night, it was late, and I talked to the doctor. I asked him how my mom was doing and what her chances were, because I was really scared. And he said, "I can't lie to you. She's critically ill right now. And all we can do right now is pray for the best. There's a chance we could lose her." That just scared me that whole night. I didn't sleep the whole time she was in there.
What are you both are thinking about now that Josie is out of the hospital?
Rocha: I just pray to God for me to be able to get through all this — be able to be home, live a good normal life with my kids and my grandkids. I know I'll never be able to forget about this. It'll always be in my mind.
What is one thing that you both wish more people understood about the virus and about your experience with it?
Rocha: I wish that when they get symptoms like this, that they wouldn't stay home, that they'd go to the doctor right away, so maybe they could save them right away.
Ponce: People should understand that it's real, and it could happen to them. If they don't understand how real it is, the only time they're going to really realize how serious this is, is when it happens to someone in their family, and they have to go through what we went through.
Another thing is I'd wish all the younger people out there would wear masks when they're in the stores and when they're out, and look out for the older people.
What was it like for you, Jess, when your mom left the hospital?
Ponce: It was like a small celebration. I felt like a dark cloud left me. I hadn't had a beer for so long. So I actually drank a beer. I was just excited that she was getting out of there. They had that graduation for her and I saw all those pictures. It made me cry. It made me and my daughter cry really bad. The sooner she was out of there, the sooner she was going to be back home with us.
What are you guys going to do when she gets to come back home?
Ponce: Just give her a huge hug and spend as much time with her as I can. We can't really go out and do anything yet.
Rocha: And cry.
Yeah, Josie, what are you planning to do when you get home?
Rocha: Oh, I'm planning to go home and give my daughters and my sons and all my grandkids hugs and kisses. Tell them how much I missed them. I can't wait to see them all.
This conversation is part of KUNC's Colorado Edition for April 15. You can find the full episode here.