CARMEL, Ind. — Lesley Vogel doesn’t remember the worst month of her life, but credits the experience with strengthening her faith and family.
The Carmel nurse was sedated and intubated for 31 days at Ascension St. Vincent hospital after contracting COVID-19.
She spent a total of 46 days in the hospital before being discharged to a rehabilitation center in May.
On Tuesday, Vogel sat for her first interview since undergoing post-tracheostomy speech therapy and returning home.
“I was so thankful to be home and see my girls,” she told News 8. “I totally feel like I was given a second chance at life that my work on earth is not finished yet.”
She suspected she contracted the virus at work in late March, despite never coming into direct contact with COVID-19 patients. At least 10 colleagues also tested positive, according to Vogel.
Her initial symptoms — fever, cough and fatigue — were mild. She recalled the moment she realized she could have the novel coronavirus, prompting her to get tested the following day.
“I knew when I was short of breath,” Vogel said. “I’m thinking, ‘This is it. I’ve got it.’ But I never thought I would end up on a ventilator.”
Her condition rapidly deteriorated; after doctors told her family she was unlikely to spend more than a week in the hospital.
As weeks passed, relatives feared the worst and began discussing funeral plans.
Meanwhile, members of her medical team found solace in unexpected signs of hope.
An X-ray technician heard a song about courage playing in her hospital room and told the sedated Vogel, “Lesley, you are courageous.”
“And with that, tears started streaming down my face, she said, and I put my hand up,” Vogel told News 8. “I was so moved when she told me. I don’t remember any of it.”
Her condition eventually began improving and she was discharged May 12 from Ascension St. Vincent.
Loved ones gathered outside the hospital to surprise her as nurses guided her outside for the first time in more than six weeks.
Her first trip home after leaving rehab was even more emotional.
A video posted on Facebook by her daughter shows Vogel sitting on her porch and thanking social media followers for their support.
“Thank you to all the nurses and doctors who helped save my life,” she says in the video clip.
Vogel urged other Hoosiers to continue taking recommended precautions as more businesses across Indiana take steps toward lifting pandemic restrictions.
“I kind of felt like there needed to be more restrictions,” she said. “Definitely wear a mask and social distance. Don’t think that it can’t happen to you because it certainly can.”