‘Don’t lose hope’: Intensive care nurse goes home after 8 months in hospital to fight COVID-19

Merlin Pambuan told other patients with COVID-19 to keep fighting.

The nurse in intensive care is finally home after spending eight months in hospital battling COVID-19.

Merlin Pambuan came out of St. Louis Medical Center. Mary in Long Beach, California on Monday, to the emotional applause of hospital staff.

Not only did they cheer for the patient, but one of them – Panbuam (66) also worked at the hospital for 40 years, where she treated patients with COVID-19 before she became one.

During her long-term treatment, Pambuan spent three months in the ICU, the hospital said. She was brought into a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator as part of her treatment, and has spent the past few weeks on physical therapy so she can walk again, Reuters reported.

Her doctor said she was approaching death “multiple times”.

“I would say it happened at least half a dozen times, that she was close to death,” said Dr. Maged Tanios, a specialist in lung and critical illness in St. Mary, for Reuters. One of the concerns was oxygen levels, he said, because the hospital “found it difficult to keep oxygen compatible with life.”

Pambuan told other patients struggling with COVID-19, “Don’t lose hope.”

“Just fight. Fight,” she told Reuters. “Because look at me. I’m going home and walking.”

Pambuan’s message comes as hospital facilities in Long Beach are “at a crossroads,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.

“The COVID crisis in Long Beach isn’t getting any better, it’s actually getting worse,” Garcia said during a news briefing on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Long Beach reported a record 14 deaths, double the previous record, Garcia said. The city is just beginning to notice the effects of Thanksgiving rallies on hospitalizations, he said, because some hospitals, including St. Louis Medical Center. Mary, almost full. The corpses are also approaching capacity, Garcia said.

“They’re struggling,” Garcia said of St. Mary’s staff. “Their doctors and their nurses are praying for your support. They see more and more patients every day and do everything they can to provide excellent care.”

Hospitals in the Long Beach area on Wednesday had 1.5% of ICU capacity, while regional ICU capacity was 0%, he said.

“We are in a serious place with our hospitals and people need to work better,” he said.

Hospitalization rates remain high throughout California as COVID-19 cases in the state exceeded 2 million. The milestone is a “reminder that this virus continues to spread to our communities,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Social Services Agency.

“Hospitals are full, JIL beds are few, people are dying,” Ghaly said in a statement Thursday. “The simplest thing we can do, but also the most important thing is to stay home. We are the first line of defense against this virus and we need to act now.”

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