BOISE, Idaho — Christine Waters is a woman who doesn't like the spotlight.
But after battling a severe case of coronavirus, or COVID-19, and coming out on top, her story is getting a lot of attention. Waters is the first patient to recover from the virus at St. Luke's Nampa.
Waters, 66, has been a long-time waitress at the Stagecoach Inn in Boise for 30 years. Other than light asthma, Waters said she's always been extremely healthy.
But in late March, Waters began feeling sick. She went to the doctor and was first diagnosed with a sinus infection, then later an ear infection. She still didn't feel better after treatment so she eventually went to a COVID-19 testing site but was turned away because she didn't present all the symptoms. She went home and was having a hard time staying on her feet. Being a long-time waitress, Waters said that was unusual for her. She continued to feel worse.
“I was laying on my couch one day and I thought, ‘You know, I feel like I’m going to die,’" she said. "And then I thought, 'Well if you think you’re going to die maybe you should call 911.'”
She did and she was then taken to St. Luke's Nampa.
“When she first came in she was walky-talky and didn’t take very long before she declined pretty rapidly,” said Losa Manuokafoa, an administrative nursing supervisor at St. Luke's.
Waters said not long after she was admitted to St. Luke's she was taken to the intensive care unit and intubated for 14 days.
“For any patient, regardless of whether it’s COVID-19 or not, that is a really long time,” Manuokafoa said.
Tammy Mcfarlane is one of the ICU nurses who helped care for Waters during part of her stay at St. Luke's. She said there were times Waters really wasn't doing well.
“She was unstable for a little while, a couple of days,” Mcfarlane said.
According to Waters, she didn't fully understand a lot of what was happening to her during those 14 days.
“I was oblivious to a lot of it," she said. "I had no idea how much trouble I was in. For that, I’m thankful because, for that reason alone, I never lost hope. I just waited to get better.”
Waters said the hardest part was not being able to have her family by her side.
“Because we have restrictions on visitors, we’re it for them,” Manuokafoa said.
Waters said she was able to FaceTime her family and write down messages, which the nurses would communicate for her.
“They were my lifeline to my other family – my biological family," she said. "And they were my family there.”
After two weeks in the ICU, Waters' tubes were taken out and a day later, she was transferred out of intensive care.
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“Normally we wheelchair you from one department to the next and she would not have it," Manuokafoa said. "She wanted to walk.”
As Waters walked out of the ICU, staff from all over the hospital lined the hallways to cheer her on.
Staff also made her a sign reading "Me: 1 COVID-19: 0." That sign now hangs in the window of Waters' home.
“I don’t know how to describe it," Waters said. "It was very heartwarming.”
It was also inspiring for the staff at St. Luke's, reminding them their jobs are worth it.
“It brings us so much joy in the midst of so much heartache," Mcfarlane said. "It’s encouraging. It gives us part of the ‘oomph’ to keep on keeping on.”
Manuokafoa called the moment "glorious."
“She rocked it," she said. "She was amazing as she walked through the halls.”
Now, Waters wants to share her story and give others some much-needed hope.
“Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up," she said. “You just got to keep going, every day and stay strong."
Waters is now home and doing well. She told KTVB she is still weak and will have to do some therapy but overall she feels good. She says she owes it all to the medical team who took care of her.
“They did everything right or I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
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