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Surprise “Clap-In” Welcomes Return of Nurse Who Beat Coronavirus

“Thank you!” Marilou Nicdao called out to healthcare providers who lined the hallway at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills. Staff gathered, clapping and cheering to celebrate Nicdao’s discharge after seven agonizing days in the Intensive Care Unit battling the coronavirus.

“I kept on saying, lord, please don’t let me die. That’s what I keep on telling myself, and I keep on praying and praying and praying,” Nicdao said.

The sendoff was especially emotional for hospital staff because Nicdau is one of their own. She’s a registered nurse who has worked about 30 years at the hospital in Queens.

Nicdao fell ill in late March, suffering aches, an uncomfortable heat in her belly, and dizziness she couldn’t shake. She did something she rarely does; she stayed home.

“I keep denying that I’m very sick. I thought, oh I’m an emergency room nurse, I can do this, I can do that. I’m so stubborn,” Nicdao said.

Family and co-workers eventually convinced her to go to the emergency room, this time as a patient.

“When I’m going inside the hospital, I’m floating; I’m walking under the moonlight. I don’t know what’s going on and really I’m catching my breath and everyone around me is running to help,” Nicdao recalled.

Nicdao fought for her life away from her family, but under the close watch of her coworkers who sent encouraging video messages to lift her spirits in the ICU.

“Stay positive, stay positive, stay positive,” one friend and colleague chanted in a message.

Nicdao says through the power of prayer and a sense of humor, she slowly got better, until she was released, and reunited with her family. Six weeks after she got sick, Nicdao returned to work to a surprise “Clap-In.”

“Thank you, thank you everyone, for saving my life,” she said to her colleagues who again lined the hallway, this time to applaud her return.

“We love you so much,” someone called to her.

“It’s nobody’s fault that I get sick. I become one of them; I become one of the COVID patients. It’s my role; it’s my duty as a nurse to help. I could not turn back on my coworkers,” Nicdao said.