Saved by Healthcare Heroes: Virginia Fitzgerald

Great-grandmother Now Sees Nurses as Angels in Disguise

Walking into the Emergency Department at Winchester Hospital, Virginia Fitzgerald was terrified that she wouldn’t walk out or return to her home. The 82-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother from Melrose was showing symptoms of COVID-19 and later tested positive. She knew from watching the news that her age put her at higher risk.

“By the time I put on my johnny, the tears were rolling down my cheeks,” she recalled. “I was so distraught, I couldn’t even say goodbye to my children.” With the help of the staff on Winchester’s C3 unit, a designated COVID-19 floor, and a float pool nurse who went above and beyond the call of duty, she lived to tell the story.

Virginia’s son drove her to the hospital on March 16, just as social distancing and other precautions were becoming commonplace. Like other hospitals around the country, Winchester had significantly limited visitors. “It was terrible for the both of them because he just had to leave her there,” said Paula Rock, Virginia’s daughter. “I didn’t know if I was going to see her again. It was very hard.”

From the Emergency Department, Virginia was eventually admitted. On top of having trouble breathing and running a fever, she was completely isolated in an effort to keep others from getting infected. “I was scared,” she said. 

After her diagnosis, Laurie Thibault, RN, a float pool nurse assigned to C3, sat with Virginia for a while. She reassured her and told her everything was going to be okay. Knowing Virginia’s family couldn’t come visit, Laurie also went out of her way to call Paula, Virginia’s health care proxy, at the end of every shift. “I felt like my mom was in great hands with somebody who really knew what they were doing,” Paula said. 

After 10 days, Virginia was healthy enough to go home, where she is currently recovering. “The nurses, God bless them all,” she said. “I think they’re angels in disguise.”