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Regina Fenner, RN, believes she contracted COVID-19 from one of her patients at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, part of Harris Health System.

“I’m pretty sure I contracted COVID from one of the patients.”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Voices of the COVID-19 crisis

“I’m pretty sure I contracted COVID from one of the patients.”

3 Minute Read

Regina Fenner, a registered nurse who works in the emergency department at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, spoke with TMC News on May 20, 2020. After testing positive for COVID-19, she self-quarantined at home for 10 days, remaining asymptomatic the entire time.

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I am a brand new nurse. I started right when COVID hit. I started working in early March in the ER and that was when COVID was still … when we weren’t sure what it was.

I had a couple of patients who came in with random symptoms that didn’t seem to be COVID related at all, but they ended up testing positive. I’m pretty sure I contracted COVID from one of the patients. I just had my normal little mask on and did very close contact stuff and that was it. Then I got an email the next day saying that I was exposed to someone who was COVID positive. I was like, ‘What?’ I hadn’t even been in the COVID unit. When you’re with patients who are confirmed positive, you have an N95 mask, you cover your head and wear a face shield and a full contact gown and gloves. There are so many precautions I think you’re almost safer. You’re more protected when you’re expecting that they’re COVID positive.

Regina Fenner, RN, wears a mask outside Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

Ten days later I was tested, and the following day I found out I was the only one who tested positive for COVID in the whole ER. I was shocked. They had me call occupational health. They said I would be home for at least 10 days. If I stayed asymptomatic I could come back; if I did have symptoms, I would have to have two negative tests before I could come back. I never manifested any symptoms at all. The whole time I felt fine, so that was a little irritating.

Out of sheer luck, I got one of the last Nintendo Switches anywhere a week or two before I got tested. I had never played video games before, but my nephews are very much into video games. So while I was home, I played with my nephews on Nintendo basically the whole time. I also watched a lot of ‘Law & Order: SVU.’

I have a roommate who works at Ben Taub Hospital, our sister hospital. She’s in the neuro-ICU, so she decided to get tested and she was negative, even though we had been in close contact. Also, I also am dating someone who works in the ER at Ben Taub and he also tested negative. This is a weird virus.

I went back to work on May 8. It kind of just feels like it’s go time, still. LBJ has the COVID patients sectioned off, but being in the ER is different because you don’t know yet if a patient has COVID. We’re the first ones who see them. We don’t test everyone, even if they show some symptoms. If you’re not really, really sick, you can have COVID at home.

Some days our COVID area is bursting at the seams and some days it’s very quiet. It’s so unusual—it comes in waves. Since the hospital relaxed its restrictions on elective surgeries, all of our normal patients are starting to come back. It’s getting very busy. Lots of COVID and, now, lots of everything else.

I have a first degree in public health, from the University of Houston. I didn’t know what field I wanted to go into when I went to nursing school at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, but the emergency room was so fast-paced. You kind of have to know a little bit—or a medium bit—about everything. And it’s a beautiful thing to be there for someone when they cannot do anything to help themselves.

Regina Fenner, RN, as told to TMC Pulse editor Maggie Galehouse

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