17-year-old hospitalized with COVID-19 for 39 days receives high school diploma, completes physical therapy

Local News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — One El Paso teen is on the road to recovery after spending part of her senior year in a hospital bed battling COVID-19.

Jennifer Morales was hospitalized back in November 2020 — at one point she was intubated — and got out 39 days later. The virus left her unable to speak or walk and she has been in physical therapy since. On Friday, she completed her last physical therapy session at The Hospitals of Providence.

One of the nurses who cared for her told KTSM 9 News that Jennifer was one of his first patients that young and so sick with COVID.

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Morales.

“It was very hard because she was getting worse and worse and we had to do more and more and thank God the doctors and us, we were sharing ideas doing everything we can,” said Arnold Chavira, a registered nurse at the Hospitals of Providence. “And then she just started getting better. We took off the tube she was breathing with; she was breathing on a ventilator.”

Chavira said a young patient had died just before he cared for Jennifer, making her recovery just that much more of a victory.

“We had just lost one before her that was going the same route she was going,” he said. “So with her, it was a turning curve where COVID was something we could fix and take care of.”

Her parents never imagined COVID would affect their daughter the way it did, but he was proud to see his daughter finish her last therapy session.

“I didn’t believe that she was going to be that sick and then seeing her in the hospital with a tube inside, it was very hard,” said Ricardo Morales, Jennifer’s father.

“She got out of the hospital in a wheelchair and now she’s walking,” he said.

Jennifer even received her high school diploma and has big plans going forward.

“I’m going to college to do my basics and after that, I’m going to study business administration,” she said.

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