COVID19 C.U.R.E. – Our Team’s Courageous Story
by Wendy J Henkelman
In early March of 2020, Ruth Sanchez, Project C.U.R.E.’s Executive Director in Phoenix was preparing for a Needs Assessment study in Africa. She would be traveling to Kenya and Ghana to visit hospitals and clinics for future medical equipment and supply donations from Project C.U.R.E. She was excited to be on site in Africa, and looking forward to a weekend of site-seeing in Paris on her way home. As she boarded the plane from Phoenix, Ruth had no way to know that her trip home would take her through a growing “hot-spot” in France, or that her exposure would lead to her contract COVID19.
It started the morning of her first day home with a simple sore throat, which is not unusual after spending hours in the dry climate of an airplane. But this was different. Her temperature shot past 100+ degrees within hours. Knowing the gravity of the COVID19 outbreak, she contacted her primary care doctor and was instructed to be tested for COVID19 at the local county hospital. She was tested and sent home to self-quarantine.
Six long, quiet, miserable days passed. Ruth’s symptoms were not subsiding. She had heard nothing from the local hospital. So she contacted the authorities to request her results. At first, the news was incredible. It was a negative result, and her dry cough, fever and other symptoms were thought to be caused by some other malady. Within hours, they called back to tell her the heartbreaking news that her results were a “false negative.” She would have to be tested again. “Some people say my job traveling to developing countries takes courage, but I think it took more courage to battle this virus,” Ruth reflected.
Suffering from shortness of breath, fever, headache, no taste and no smell, no amount of sleep seemed to be enough. Her joints ached and the stabbing pain in her lungs was most alarming. With her heart racing and with an uncontrollable raging temperature, Ruth drove herself to another ER to take a second test. Once again, she was sent home to self-quarantine and wait for the second set of results.
It was Saturday, March 20th, a full ten days after the initial test at the county hospital that the Arizona Health Department called to confirm both tests came back positive. She had become one of a rapidly growing group of people in the United States that were officially COVID19 positive. Ruth shared, “It was a very scary three weeks, not knowing what the next day would look like. It helped to understand the virus on a scientific level so I wouldn’t panic.”
Seven more long, feverish days would pass. The piercing needles in her lungs. No appetite, no taste and no smell. She was self-quarantining alone so as not to expose anyone else to the virus. Her support system of friends and family brought supplies and food, and left them at her door. Prayers from loved ones via text and email provided her with tremendous comfort. And the sleep, care and prayer were effective. On the morning of the 27th, her fever finally broke!
“Facing something so unknown and not knowing how it would turn out, staying positive and really leaning into my faith is what got me through this,” Ruth shared. “After even an hour of feeling better last week, that was an hour giving me hope for the next hour. And then after the next hour of feeling better it turned into a day, and then a good week. Knowing that will turn into a month of feeling better – HOPE is what got me through this.”
Ruth is recovered and daily regaining her strength. We know that this virus doesn’t discriminate, and any one of us can be impacted by COVID19. It is very serious, and the precautions to stay safe, “stay at home” and stay healthy should be taken very seriously.
Thankfully, this is a story of hope and healing. Ruth wanted to share it as an encouragement and to celebrate one of our Project C.U.R.E. team who faced the crisis and made it through the frightening ordeal. “I will never take for granted the health I do have. Every day is a new day of healing, a new day of breathing,” said Ruth. “For those that have someone they love going through this, or they personally are going through this, it is scary but it IS possible to get through this.” She remains deeply committed to her purpose. “I want to give back now and I want to do something to help with what my body has recovered from. If it means using my antibodies towards a vaccine from a blood or plasma donation, then great. When people see that I’m better it takes away some of the unknown fear!”
Thank you Ruth. We are proud of you, and grateful for bringing courage to many who may need it in the months ahead.
As Project C.U.R.E. pivoted its focus towards the U.S. in this COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we continue to donate the supplies we do have towards medical providers in need. With work in more than 130 countries, Project C.U.R.E. has been delivering life-saving medical supplies and equipment to under-developing countries around the globe. When the COVID19 crisis is over for the U.S. the urgent need for life-saving medical supplies for other countries will not be over and we need your help now more than ever. Now is the time to get involved, donate supplies, or donate to help resource Project C.U.R.E.’s continued work.