Nurse Heads Home After 117-Day Hospitalization Over COVID-19: 'It Feels Great'
Sharon Tapp was placed in a medically induced coma for two months and battled setbacks including heart and lung failure
Sharon Tapp is typically the one helping people leave the hospital through her job, but this month, she was the one celebrating getting discharged after surviving 117 days in the hospital with coronavirus complications.
“It feels great,” Tapp, 60, told Today of overcoming her severe illness, which left her on the brink of death. “Everyone was pleased and happy to see me standing up. They were just overjoyed.”
Tapp, who did not have any underlying conditions, works as a nurse case manager at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., which is where she believes she may have contracted COVID-19 in early to mid-March, according to TODAY.
Her medical nightmare began on March 18, when she came down with sudden body weakness, chest pain, a high temperature and a headache, a Johns Hopkins Medicine media release said.
She rushed to a local urgent care center, and though doctors said her symptoms were flu-like, she tested for coronavirus — and five days later, learned she was positive.
Within 10 days at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Suburban Hospital, she was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she spent two months in a medically induced coma, the release said.
Over the course of her 117-day struggle, Tapp was placed on a ventilator, and battled various setbacks, including pneumonia and heart and lung failure.
She also underwent dialysis and a procedure called ECMO, which “helps to oxygenate and recirculate blood throughout a person’s body, allowing vital organs to rest and heal,” the release said.
“My doctor said that my [infection] was the worst that you can get,” she told Today. “I was very, very, very sick.”
Since waking from her coma, Tapp has been working on rebuilding her strength, and has had to relearn basic skills such as swallowing and walking — she compared her state to that of “a newborn baby in a diaper” to Today.
“I was the type, I took care of everybody. Now, everybody wants to take care of me,” she said. “They’re just trying to see that I am taken care of but I hate to be dependent on people. I like helping people.”
After some progress, Tapp moved to an acute rehabilitation hospital for three weeks, where her team was led by Dr. April Pruski, the outlet reported.
She still relies on a rolling walker and a quad cane for now, and also has a tracheostomy wound that doctors expect to heal, though Tapp told Today she plans on getting vocal therapy, as her voice is hoarser and raspier than it was before her illness.
RELATED VIDEO: Family Reunites with EMS Dad as He Returns From 100 Days on Frontlines
For now, Tapp’s main goal is focusing on returning to work at the VA Hospital, where she’s spent the last 13 years helping veterans get discharged and where her coworkers call her the “social butterfly,” according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“It’s more than possible,” Pruski told Today of Tapp going back to work. “It’s a matter of Sharon getting her endurance back and Sharon being ready to go back. She will do it because she has hope and she wants to and she can.”
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been at least 4.4 million cases and 151,974 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.