Bellevue nurse uses COVID-19 experience to comfort patients

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Catherine Teng is a nurse in the emergency department at Overlake Hospital and Medical Center in Bellevue.

Teng, 33, started at Overlake more than five years ago. She told KIRO 7 she likes working in the emergency department, where it is fast-paced and you never know what’s coming next.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge she met head-on, eager to do all she can to help patients and their families. Overlake stated Teng has been a standout front-line worker during the entire pandemic.

More than four months into the pandemic, she got sick.

Teng contracted COVID-19 in July. While it is unknown if she got sick at work, she was treating COVID-19-positive patients.

“I was pretty sick for probably 7-10 days. I felt pretty horrible. I don’t think I’ve felt that bad in my entire life.” said Teng, a registered nurse.

Teng, a wife and mother of three young children, is thankful the rest of her family did not get sick. She was also lucky her mother was visiting from outside the U.S. and was able to help care for her and help with her family.

When she was well, she went right back to work. And this time, she told patients about her experience. “Just to give them that kind of hope. It’s not all bad. People survive and do fine. It obviously needs to be taken seriously, but it does give them a little peace of mind. There’s people who have gone through it and lived to tell on the other side,” said Teng.

Teng is one of many nurses who were celebrated this week during “emergency nurse appreciation” week.

Teng said the entire emergency department works together.

“Knowing we have each other to kind of get each other through bad days and hard days, tragic stories, and that sort of thing — that makes a huge difference. Also, having that community support. It’s been overwhelming how much support we’ve received from the community,” said Teng.

She urges the community not to back down and to keep taking precautions to keep from getting sick. She also doesn’t want people to be too afraid of COVID-19 to the point that they don’t seek care for other illnesses. She’s seen patients arrive in much worse shape than if they’d sought care sooner.

“Don’t live in fear. Yes, it is scary. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns about this virus. But if there’s a medical emergency, if you are having symptoms you are concerned about, please come in and seek help,” Teng said.

She is on a committee working to identify and implement new COVID-19 protocols as they monitor the latest research.