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Valley ICU nurse battling effects of COVID-19 months after infection

Posted at 4:16 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 12:06:25-04

A Valley ICU nurse is recovering from COVID-19 four months after she was infected.

Dawn Cardwell has been a registered nurse for a decade. She was working night shifts on the COVID floor at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale when she said she contracted the virus.

She said on May 2, she had treated a COVID patient on BiPAP, a breathing machine that uses pressure to pump air in and out through the lungs.

"The mask is not fully sealed, so it pushes the air out around the outside of the mask, which then aerosolizes the virus into the room," Cardwell explained.

In early April, Banner implemented a policy to reuse N95 masks until it became visibly soiled or no longer provided the necessary seal.

In a statement to ABC15, Banner said, "due to the significant global supply chain disruption, especially in personal protective equipment, the vast majority of healthcare organizations had to implement respirator extended use or re-use policies in accordance with direction from the Centers for Disease Control."

Employees, like Cardwell, were able to exchange the used N95 for a new one. Cardwell had been reusing her mask and says that may have played a role.

"Maybe my mask was looser, because unfortunately, with those N95 masks you don't realize how loose they've become until you get a new mask."

She was hospitalized for a week in the same hospital where she works.

"It was the worst experience of my life," said Cardwell.

Cardwell shared her story with COVID on the blog to let people know about the possible long-term effects of the virus.

She's still dealing with a long list of issues, including tremors, headaches, chest pains and shortness of breath. She also has to do occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. Cardwell even needs oxygen at night.

"I have short-term memory loss, I have comprehension issues, I have word-finding issues," she said.

Cardwell doesn't know how long the symptoms will last or when she may be able to go back to work.

"I want to be back. I need a routine and a sense of worth, a sense of doing things, helping people," said Cardwell.

She's had to depend entirely on her family for help and worries people are politicizing something that nearly killed her.

"It's frustrating. So many are ignorant because they don't want to believe it, because they think there's something behind it, and it's not true."

Cardwell said, even though she got sick at work, she can't wait to go back, and she feels lucky to have the support and care from her nurses and doctors.