Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. nurse living in Texas relearns to walk after fight with COVID-19

Melanie Carmichael, working on the front lines at a Texas hospital, faced one of the hardest challenges of her life over the summer.

Melanie Carmichael was in hospital for 108 days

Melanie Carmichael, originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, is an intensive-care unit nurse in Texas, relearning how to walk after contracting COVID-19 over the summer. (Submitted by Melanie Carmichael )

A nurse working on the front lines at a Texas hospital faced one of the hardest challenges of her life over the summer.

Melanie Carmichael was born in St. John's, went to school in Norris Point and studied nursing at Memorial University before landing in Texas's Rio Grande Valley, at the Harlingen Medical Center in the '90s to help others in need. 

But in July, Carmichael became a patient herself, at the same hospital where she works as a nurse in the intensive-care unit, after contracting the coronavirus.

At first, she thought it would be a mild case. 

"On the 20th I went and got admitted to the ER. I was able to walk there, but I really wasn't feeling good," Carmichael told CBC Radio's On The Go on Thursday.

Carmichael would be later be heavily sedated, intubated, and spend more than two months on a ventilator. During that time she would also endure a tracheotomy, a heart attack and two near-death experiences. 

Even after she came off the ventilator, it took another month before she was eating and drinking on her own.

"It's a little bit dodgy what happened in between, because I got a lot of medications, a lot of sedation. I was intubated for two and a half months," said Carmichael.

Carmichael's husband, Kurt Churchill is also an intensive-care unit nurse. (Submitted by Melanie Carmichael)

Carmichael's husband, Kurt Churchill, also works as an ICU nurse at a separate facility. Churchill said it was a difficult time for the couple as he continued to work with critically ill COVID-19 patients and then visited Carmichael after his shifts. 

"It was hard. A very trying time," he said. 

A miracle

Carmichael said the staff told her it was a miracle she survived. Being intubated for that long is almost unheard of, she said. 

"One of the doctors said, 'You know, there was one point where I really didn't think you were going to make it,'" she said. 

People came to her bedside and asked if they could pray for her.

"One of the girls came in and told me this other nurse had prayed at my bedside all one day."

Carmichael was hospitalized for 108 days. Upon being released, doctors and nurses lined the hallways to see her off — applauding, cheering and giving well wishes. Today she's in a rehab unit taking oxygen and relearning how to walk and use her arms.

"People are saying, you know, 'I knew she was going to make it. Newfies are tough," Carmichael said, laughing. "That's what my mother-in-law said. But, you know, I wouldn't be able to go through anything like it again. I'm already done."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen

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