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Covid-19 survivor reunited with nurse for first time since leaving hospital

covid nurse reunion

AVOCA, WI (WKOW) -- The garden is empty in Lona Towsley's backyard this spring. It's hard to plant any seeds when you can hardly even breathe.

In April, Towsley spent four days on a ventilator at UW Hospital. After testing positive for Covid-19, Towsley described a steady worsening of her condition. From a fever, to chills, to unbearable aches, all the way up the scare sensation of fluids filling her lungs.

"You could actually feel the fluid in there, just moving around," Towsley said. "It was like being strangled slowly, I mean I could feel them just filling up."

Towsley, a two-time cancer survivor, had to go on a ventilator at that point. While nurses would wake her up every few hours to ask questions or monitor her condition, Towsley said she remembers none of it.

"I always had the 'I'm gonna make it through attitude and this time, when Britney, my nurse, she's like 'you need to FaceTime your husband' before they put me on (the ventilator,)' Towsley said. "I actually thought that was the last time I was gonna see him or my kids."

Towsley said the first person she remembered seeing after waking up was that nurse, Britney Kershner.

"Next thing I know, she's standing there and asking me if I'm OK, and she's like 'you made it, you did it, see?' She was encouraging me the whole time I was in ICU," Towsley said.

On Thursday, Kershner waited in a conference room at UW Hospital. For the first time in six weeks, she was about to see Towsley. It would be their first time meeting since Towsley came off the ventilator.

"It was almost like an instant connection," Kershner said. "I felt like, if this was my mom, I would want someone to be there with her during this whole time."

The two women elbow bumped and complimented each other's looks. They smiled and chatted before posing for photos with the hospital's multimedia staff. Kershner said it's moments like Thursday's reunion that get her through the grueling work of nursing during a pandemic.

"There's patients like Lona that make it out on the other side and they're doing well. That's kind of what keeps us going," Kershner said. "You know there's hope."