Health care worker now on ventilator and fighting for her life from COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A health care worker who was on the front lines continues to recover after contracting COVID-19. After a month, she's finally tested negative for the virus, but her recovery could last even longer.

Iris Avila is a patient care assistant at St. Luke's Hospital. Her family said she's worked in the ER for 11 years and then, the pandemic hit.

"It was a worry for our family and for her but mostly for her, since she's being exposed to a lot of people," said Iris' brother, Caleb.

On April 7, Iris told Caleb that she had a fever. He said days later, she went to the hospital where she works, but this time, as a patient.

Iris later tested positive for coronavirus, though it's unclear how she got it.

"Things were starting to go south," recalled Caleb. "She was basically on the last ventilator setting within a 24-hour time frame so, the next step was ECMO."

That's when her family became even more concerned.

"We weren't sure if she was going to make it or not but, she's doing better now," said Caleb. "We're keeping positive and we're being thankful. She is slowly progressing. Her lungs are starting to respond."

In fact, on Tuesday, for the first time, Iris' family spoke with her via FaceTime. Although she can't speak to them, they know she heard them.

"She started crying, because she could hear our voice," said Caleb. "So, I think the pain is also for her attempting [and] wanting to say, 'I miss you guys.'"

As Iris battles COVID-19, her parents also tested positive for the virus. Caleb said their mother was asymptomatic. Their father was sick but is doing better.

Iris' whole family, including her 9-year-old daughter, are just praying she's healed soon.

She remains on a ventilator and will likely require physical therapy after.

"She's got a long road. We're looking at least two more months," said Avila.

Iris' family created a GoFundMe account to help with expenses.

Meanwhile, Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center sent ABC13 the following statement:

"While we cannot comment on the care of a specific patient due to patient privacy laws, we care deeply for all our patients and follow established regulatory protocols and standards of care when discharging any patient from our facility. This includes those with a prior diagnosis of COVID-19, those on ventilators, and those going to a post-acute care facility."

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