UMass. Med Student Goes From Treating Patients to COVID-19 Patient and Back

"I'm one of the lucky ones, coronavirus nearly took my life," said UMass. medical student Michelle Shabo

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It was in early March that Michelle Shabo began feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

A mild cough that she thought might have been a residual symptom of the flu she had just overcome turned into a fever that just wouldn't break and, eventually, a terrifying shortness of breath.

"It physically hurt to breathe, it felt like someone was sitting on my chest," Shabo said.

She checked herself into UMass Memorial in Worcester -- the same hospital and even in the same room where the fourth-year medical student had treated patients.

"For me, that was really the most difficult part of being a patient. Knowledge was both a blessing and a curse," Shabo said.

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As she battled pneumonia, she watched her oxygen levels and labs closely, growing scared as they kept getting worse. She said there were discussions among the doctors treating her about the potential for her to be intubated, with a tube placed into her windpipe to help her breathe.

Luckily for Shabo, antibiotics worked. And as soon as she was fully recovered, she made it her mission to help -- beginning an emergency medicine rotation in Worcester's DCU Center field hospital this month.

"I feel like I just have a different level of connection with my patients now," Shabo said.

One patient's remarkable recovery from the coronavirus has the ICU team at Massachusetts General Hospital celebrating. Dr. David King shared what it's like taking one of his sickest patients off the ventilator.

And that empathy from being a patient is making her a better doctor.

"Why should anyone else be exposed to this if I have already been through it?" said Shabo. "For me, it felt like closure, it was a way of giving back to those people who helped me when I was in the hospital."

Shabo said she has already donated plasma and she encourages anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to do the same.

"I'm one of the lucky ones, coronavirus nearly took my life," she said.

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