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Recovered COVID-19 patient pays it forward by volunteering on unit that treated her

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From COVID Patient to Volunteer

National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate and recognize those volunteers who inspire all of us to lend our time to causes we care about. Virginia Foley volunteers at AdventHealth East Orlando because it has been a lifelong dream for her to get into the medical field. She retired early from her sales and marketing career and started attending the Southern Technical Institute to become a patient care tech. Foley wants to make a difference in someone’s life just like the team at AdventHealth East Orlando made a difference in hers.

Over a year ago, Foley was taken to the AdventHealth East Orlando emergency department via ambulance due to needing treatment for COVID-19. Foley was hospitalized for three months and in rehabilitation for about another three months.

During her time at the hospital, she needed a feeding tube, underwent dialysis because her kidneys were not filtering enough blood, developed pneumonia and a blood clot, and had to learn how to walk again. Foley credits the staff for going above and beyond to save her life and take care of her and her family through this tough journey.

“The team helped me get through it and they were amazing all around the whole time I was there,” said Foley. “It wasn’t just the medical staff; the environmental staff came to clean that room and would get someone to get me a blanket if I asked for one. Once I could eat, the nutrition staff provided alternative foods to swap out the ones I didn’t like.”

Foley is grateful for not only the care she received from the team, but for the care her husband, Chris Foley, received as well. He was unable to visit her in the hospital for a while due to COVID-19 restrictions. The staff took his calls to update him every day and helped connect the couple via iPad. He kept a journal of all his interactions with the staff and recorded details about how they helped him.

The first time her husband could visit in person, nurse Brittany Sawyer helped Foley prepare for the visit. Sawyer combed her hair and painted her nails. While Foley and her husband spent time together, Sawyer played romantic music.

“Being in the hospital is easy,” said Foley. “I was being taken care of 24/7 with people bringing me blankets and feeding me, but then you have my husband and family back home and they can’t see me. The staff took their calls and when they could visit, they took care of them too.”

The care Foley and her family received from all the team members at AdventHealth East Orlando inspired her to come back 10 months after she was discharged to volunteer. Now she volunteers on the same ICU floor where she was treated, working alongside some of the people who took care of her.

She makes patients feel comfortable by talking to them and their families, as well as providing them with blankets and water. She helps team members by stocking gowns and gloves, pulling EKG reports, delivering reports to the nurses and more. Foley finds joy helping patients and team members alike, even as she deals with lingering COVID-19 effects. She can only volunteer three days out of the week for four to five hours, and uses a walker to move around. She hopes that volunteering will help build her endurance to eventually achieve her goal of working at AdventHealth full time. But for now, she is proud to work alongside the team in whatever capacity she can.

“Being able to work with the people who took care of me is amazing,” said Foley. “Seeing their reaction when they see me up and around and doing good is even better because on the ICU floor, a lot of times they don’t have good stories. To give them a happy story and let them know that they are the reason I am doing good is an amazing feeling.”

Over 2,000 volunteers contribute their time annually at AdventHealth in Central Florida to make a positive impact on the lives of patients, visitors and team members. AdventHealth offers many opportunities to get involved as a volunteer. If you are interested, please contact the Volunteer Services office at [email protected].

Foley’s story appeared on “AdventHealth TV,” AdventHealth’s internal newscast for Central Florida Division team members. Watch here: From COVID Patient to Volunteer – AdventHealth TV Story

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