News & Events
Chicago Tribune: Nurses Fear Getting Sick a Second Time
INA member Daniel Ortiz, a nurse stationed to the COVID unit at University of Illinois Hospital, spoke with the Chicago Tribune for a April 27 front-page story on the risk of re-exposure to the virus.
Nurses fear getting sick a second time
He went back to work, then his cough came back and test were inconsistent
By Allison Bowen
Day after day, Daniel Ortiz walks into a hospital and treats patients who are struggling with the coronavirus. He hoped he wouldn’t test positive for the virus. But it was, he felt, inevitable.
That fear came true, not once, but twice.
Ortiz’s ordeal started in March, when he was assigned to the COVID-19 unit at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. Although escaping exposure felt impossible, he took measures to protect his wife, carefully removing contaminated clothing before entering their home and sleeping on the couch.
Still, a coronavirus test in late March came back positive.
“It felt like someone was constantly hitting me in the head with a hammer,” said Ortiz, who returned to work in early April. At that time, he said, protocol to return to work did not include further testing. Nurses could go back once symptoms subsided after seven days. “I go right to the place that got me sick, that took my power, that took everything.”
Ortiz is one of thousands of people working in Illinois health care systems who have been infected with the virus. Eights have died, according to the state Health Department. He and other nurses who have tested positive for the coronavirus told the Tribune they worry about getting sick again.
Last week, Ortiz’s cough returned. Under new hospital policy, he was tested twice before he could return to work this time. The first result came back negative. But on Wednesday, two days later, he tested positive.
Ortiz had been taking his temperature each night. Every day, he readied himself to return to the hospital, where he often leaves a shift crying. He got into nursing to save lives, and now he fights a virus without a cure. He watches people die. Each time, he feels he has failed.
As he awaited his more recent test results, he watched people protest orders to stay home and rally for the reopening of businesses.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” Ortiz said. “I ask myself, is this what my life and health are worth to people, a haircut?”
Read the full story on chicagotribune.com.