A Former COVID-19 ICU Patient Credits Nurses at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital for Saving his Life

Shortly after the holidays last December, 43-year-old Eddie Iniesta was admitted to Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital with severe complications from COVID-19. For the next few weeks, Iniesta’s condition flipped between slowly improving to steadily declining. He refused, however, to be intubated, instead telling his nurses that he would be one of their “miracle patients.” That determination is what ultimately led to his discharge home, but Iniesta said he would not be alive today without the nurses at Memorial Hermann Southeast, who saved his life in more ways than he can express.

“These nurses, they got through to me. It is because of them that I am here today,” Iniesta said.

Iniesta said that advice his nurse Christi Gallier gave him—that COVID-19 was a marathon, not a sprint—was a constant source of strength throughout his hospitalization.

“Christi made the biggest difference,” Iniesta said. “She is like family to me, and I’ll never forget what she did for me as long as I live. When you are a patient, you are in an extremely vulnerable state, and she would talk to me and encourage me, and when I needed it, she would talk tough to me and tell me to fight.”

Iniesta said that even after he got out of the ICU, she would come to visit him after working a 12-hour shift.

“She would come on her own time and talk to me for at least an hour,” he recalled. “I will tell you right now, to me, Christi is an angel.”

Iniesta said that after he had left the ICU, Gallier told him there had been a day early in his hospitalization when he had nearly given up.

“I was feeling really bad and I actually called a lot of my family and friends and told them goodbye. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it that day,” Iniesta said. “Christi later told me that she was really scared that day, because I told her that whatever happened, it was in God’s hands—I either get to go to heaven or I get to go home and be with my family.”

Iniesta fell into a deep sleep after that, and Gallier later shared that she had found a chaplain and brought him to his bedside that day.

“I didn’t know that until she told me much later,” Iniesta said. “The next day, she bought me some magazines and crossword puzzles. She used her own money for that.”

Iniesta also said another nurse, Kendall Fox, made a significant impact on his recovery. He recalled one specific period when he was feeling especially discouraged and had stopped answering his texts or phone calls.

“Kendall walked in to take my blood and I told her I was done with all of that and wanted to be left alone,” Iniesta recalled. “She looked at me and said, ‘You have a son, right?’ I told her yes and she said, ‘I need you to fight for him. We don’t have to do this for you, we don’t have to do this for me, but we are doing this for your son.’ That really kick-started me and I got up that day and ate for the first time in two weeks.”

Iniesta said nurses Audrey Lackey, Krysta Harper and PCA Irene Ponce were also people who stood out to him during his time in the hospital.

“Audrey was so upbeat and always joked with me. Krysta was awesome. She would sit there and talk to me and I would never feel embarrassed even when I was at my most vulnerable,” Iniesta said. “And Ms. Irene—she was amazing. I was texting my wife one day and told her I was in a lot of pain, and she said, ‘I’m praying for you right now, and God just told me He’s going to send you an angel,’ and I’m not kidding you, not even five minutes later in walked Ms. Irene.”

Iniesta said that these were just some of the many nurses who made a lasting impression on him during his hospitalization.

“There were so many I want to thank, even some I didn’t know—whenever a nurse would walk by my door or window they would give me a thumbs-up or some kind of encouragement to just keep fighting,” he said. “It really helped me and made such a difference.”

Since going home, Iniesta has come back to Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital twice to personally thank the nurses, doctors, and care team who helped save his life. Today, he is back at work and exercising as much as he can to regain the strength he lost during his hospitalization. He and his wife recently took their 10-year-old son swimming in the Gulf—just one of many memories he will cherish in the years to come.  

“When I came back to visit I told my nurses that I did it,” Iniesta said. “I proved that miracles are real.”

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Ali Vise