PHOENIX — More than 2,500 Arizonan's have been infected with COVID-19 so far, with the number expected to rise in the coming weeks.
A Valley non-profit director was one of the first to battle the deadly virus and says the experience has changed her perspective on the pandemic and life.
"It's much more serious."
Ruth Sanchez helps hospitals and communities around the world. She is the Executive Director of Project C.U.R.E in Phoenix, a nationwide non-profit that is the "largest provider of donated medical supplies and equipment to developing countries on a worldwide basis."
"I went on a mission trip to do a medical assessment in both Ghana and Kenya," said Sanchez, who left the valley in early March for Africa.
When the Arizona native was on her way back from the trip, she stopped over in Paris, where she spent a few days.
"Not knowing it was a hotspot," said Sanchez. "It was packed with tourists for all over."
72 hours after her trip, she says she started feeling the symptoms.
"I was focused on staying alive."
The coughing, the ice picks in the lungs, the fever, the extreme fatigue...the headaches and the diarrhea," she said. "I lost my sense of smell and taste."
Sanchez stayed home at first, trying to ride out the pain. Eventually, she drove herself to ValleyWise Medical Facility in Phoenix.
"I was there for seven hours," she recalled. "I had to go get tested again at HonorHealth, because I had a false negative."
It was at that moment that dying crossed her mind.
"I really felt that that day, as I was driving the 20 miles to Anthem, that that might be it," said Sanchez. "It was one of the scariest times of my life."
When she got to the emergency room, she was overcome with emotion and panic.
"I actually started crying, like please help me," said Sanchez, noting that she is usually incredibly tough.
After 21 days and long, miserable nights in self-quarantine, she is finally feeling better and considered immune.
"I was focused on staying alive and surviving," she said.
"You don't want this."
Sanchez says her focus now back on running the Phoenix Chapter of Project C.U.R.E.
"We pivoted from the international focus, to the local needs," she said.
Already the non-profit is helping fulfill some of Arizona's desperate requests for masks and other PPE
"We’re getting emails, phone calls, every day, from medical staff, physicians and our hospitals," said Sanchez.
"I would just like people to take this really serious, because you don’t want this," she said.
With PPE stockpiles running low in Arizona, Sanchez told ABC15 that Project C.U.R.E. is going to call on the community to help soon, by donating masks and other equipment for valley medical providers.
You can visit their website for more information: https://projectcure.org/phoenix