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Recovered COVID-19 Patient Pays It Forward by Volunteering on Unit that Treated Her

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 of hers to get into the medical field. She retired early from her sales and marketing career and started attending 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 by ambulance, 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, developed pneumonia and a blood clot, and had to learn 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.

“Being able to work with the people who took care of me is amazing.”

“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 not only for 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.

“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 volunteer only three days a 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.”

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