First COVID-19 patient at Sparrow released after 55 days

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- Do you know where you were on March 14? That's the day the first COVID-19 patient came to Sparrow. On Friday, she left the hospital for good.

On Friday, May 8, 2020, Sparrow Hospital's first COVID-19 patient left the hospital for good after spending 55 days in recovery. (WILX)

It was a moment 55 days in the making for Jeannine Thelen.

"Not only was she the first, but she was also, by far, one of the sickest patients we've ever taken care of," said nurse Anna Doutree, who is in charge of the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Sparrow.

That all changed at 11 a.m. sharp on Friday. Thelen was pushed through the hospital one last time.

"How hard she fought and to see her just like a person you would see on the street is miraculous," said Doutree.

Like Thelen, it was a moment Doutree had been waiting for, too.

"The hardest part of nursing has been seeing COVID patients. To see her do so great, it's like the shining light in the blackness."

Thelen's journey has been a long one. Since being admitted in mid-March, Doutree said she had to fight for her life. In the end, Thelen came back swinging and won.

"As patients get to go home with their families, everything is so worthwhile. You don't feel hopeless when these things happen," said Doutree, choking back tears talking to News 10's Barrett Tryon.

As Thelen was pushed down the hallway, she got to do what every other patient who survives the coronavirus gets to do -- ring a bell.

Despite the cheers echoing through the lobby halls, you cannot help byt notice the nurses, all who lined up to send Thelen off in style, who know their jobs are not done.

"It's incredibly difficult. It weighs heavy on our hearts to do this day after day after day, but we just need to take care of these patients, so we do whatever we can," said Doutree.

Friday was a huge victory for both Jeannine and the staff at Sparrow.

"We beat the hardest part with Jeannine, and sending her home is like step two of what's going to happen next," said Doutree.

Sparrow said its next victory could come as soon as this weekend when the hospital's 100th COVID-19 patient is expected to be discharged.

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