Natasha StruewingWhen she walked across the stage at her high school graduation, Natasha Struewing knew she was heading into the field of nursing because she wanted to help people. She went on to become a certified nursing assistant, working at Decatur County Memorial Hospital on the weekends while pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Indianapolis. She enjoyed working alongside her mom, who was working in Outpatient Surgery at the time.

“Decatur County Memorial Hospital has always felt like family,” she said. “I kind of grew up here.”

As her passion for nursing continued burning bright, Natasha rose through the ranks at the hospital, serving as a registered nurse and eventually moving into her current position as a nurse practitioner in women’s health. She has always cherished the warm, friendly atmosphere of the hospital, but she appreciated the staff as a true second family when she recently found herself as a patient.

On Monday, March 16, just a few days after the declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency, Natasha started experiencing symptoms of the virus. She woke up with severe back pain and shortness of breath. Rather than going about her workday, she saw a nurse practitioner, who determined she had severe pneumonia in her right lung and sent her home with a 5-day antibiotic treatment. Her condition quickly took a turn for the worst when she developed a 102-degree fever that evening.

“It came fast and furious for me,” Natasha said. “My whole body hurt. Over the week, I took my entire Z-pack treatment, and it did nothing. I was having major difficulty breathing.”

On Thursday of that week, she was tested for COVID-19 and, in accordance with CDC guidelines, was quarantined at home. A few days later the test results came back positive.

Once day six hit, so did the stomach and intestinal issues. Natasha quarantined herself in her bedroom, which fortunately has a connecting bathroom. Her husband packed her a cooler full of food, but none of it stayed down.

When the next week arrived, it was time for Natasha to go to the hospital. Fainting in her bathroom on Monday morning was the final straw. Her care team at Decatur County Memorial Hospital discovered she now had pneumonia in both lungs, and they wanted to observe her overnight.

The next day, Natasha told Hospitalist Dr. Kirk Crouser she had a heavy feeling of doom in her chest.

“He said, ‘That’s what everyone with COVID-19 has been saying — that they feel like they are going to drown and they have a sense of doom’,” Natasha said.

By that evening, she was requiring three liters of oxygen, and she found herself drifting into a dark, desperate mindset.

“The next two nights, I held onto the railing of my hospital bed and stayed up praying,” she said. “It was the most horrifying experience. And it was very lonely. I couldn’t even have my husband there to hold my hand through it. But the nurses, nursing aides and respiratory therapists were amazing, and they all supported me.”

Throughout her four days in the hospital, Natasha felt like she was in the hands of a second family. The doctors and nurses not only provided outstanding medical care; they also gave her peace of mind. She was overwhelmed with gratitude for their comfort and compassion. Natasha’s experience as a patient made her even prouder to be professionally associated with Decatur County Memorial Hospital.