CINCINNATI — Walter Ruiz wasn't feeling terribly well one day, but never dreamed he'd pass out at work and wake up in Mercy-Fairfield Hospital with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The disease hit his lungs; he couldn't breathe. And, worst of all, couldn't see his family.
He needed the care the hospital's fifth floor COVID unit could give, but just being on the floor meant being barred from seeing everyone he loved.
"When you don't have anybody around you...no members of your family...it's really hard," said Ruiz.
A nurse caring for him understood, and made certain she took the time to spend one-on-one time with Ruiz to keep him company.
"I treat everybody like I would want someone to treat my mom," said Lisa Lane, a nurse in the Mercy-Fairfield Hospital COVID unit.
Ruiz said Lane sat with him, urging him to keep fighting and encouraging him through the process. In that moment, Ruiz said he thought about everyone he had to live for and how badly he wanted to see his grandchildren grow up.
After he recovered, Ruiz said he wanted to personally thank Lane for staying by his side, but he didn't have a good description of what she looked like because of all the PPE she wore. Mercy Health sent Ruiz a few pictures of the nurses who worked with him while he was sick and he hesitantly chose Lane's photo, believing she was possibly the nurse.
"When she come right here today, she talked," said Ruiz. "I said, 'It's you.'"
Hearing her voice, he said he knew for certain she was the one who kept him company while he battled COVID-19.
"I don't do anything more than any nurse on the planet does...that's just what we do," said Lane.
Ruiz still felt she deserved thanks, and decided to say it in a big, bold way. He made a big banner for her and the coronavirus treatment team, reading "Thanks to all Mercy staff for being everyday heroes in our lives."
"She will be my hero for the rest of my life," said Ruiz. "The words, when she tell me, 'You can make it, don't quit,' they gave me power. Thank you."