Nou Thao, respiratory therapist, has worked with COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic in hospitals in New Jersey, Texas, Florida and her home state of Wisconsin.
While in New Jersey, Thao contracted the disease herself after working days without the proper personal protection equipment.
Thao only had an ill-fitting mask and gloves, she said.
Following her fifth shift she collapsed in the elevator of her hotel. She crawled to her room, but did not have the strength to even dial 911. Hotel management called her an ambulance.
Once recovered, she returned to her work assignment.
“Everyone called me crazy, but my job was not done,” Thao said. “I decided I’d go home to my family when they didn’t need me any more at the hospital. If I left to go home after I recovered from the virus, I’d feel I hadn’t done my job.”
Thao, a respiratory therapist trained at Milwaukee Area Technical College, continued her work in New Jersey and then moved on to Texas and Florida as COVID-19 cases continued to climb.
She returned home to Wisconsin in June and currently works with long term care patients at Select Specialty Hospitals in St. Francis and West Allis. She also plans to return to work with local COVID-19 patients.
Thao stresses the importance of wearing masks and social distancing and cautions anyone who believes they might have contracted COVID-19 to listen to their body.
“If you know you aren’t feeling right, quarantine, regardless of a test result,” she said.