Local News

ICU nurse turns her COVID-19 experience into effort to promote heart health awareness

Posted October 7, 2021 2:16 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2021 5:08 p.m. EDT

— In August of 2020, Crystal Johnson found herself in an unfamiliar position at a familiar place -- her workplace at Duke Regional Hospital.

“Being a nurse that works in ICU, I was actually moved from the emergency room into the ICU,” said Johnson.

When she first became ill, Johnson recognized her own symptoms of COVID-19.

“Just the classic symptoms. Loss of taste, high fevers, some nausea. I started having respiratory difficulty and stayed home for about a week or week and a half. I just wasn’t improving,” she called.

Johnson was transferred to Duke Regional Hospital as a patient and was diagnosed with pneumonia.

She said the experience also affected her heart, leading to an irregular heart rhythm.

“I get dizzy at times, really light-headed,” said Johnson.

She added that she's been classified as a long-haul COVID-19 patient because of her post-virus symptoms.

The 18-year nurse veteran and mother of two daughters continues to work in the ICU.

But now, she said her heart is set on raising money for her Triangle Heart Walk team.

Johnson is a coach for the 'ICU Drip Daddies' team with a $10,000 fundraising goal.

Anne Miller, executive director for the Triangle market of the American Heart Association, leads the annual fundraiser to advance research and promote heart health.

“At the American Heart Association, we want people to get active, eat healthy, be well and so, that’s been our message all along,” said Miller.

Johnson said she wants to set a strong example for turning negatives into positives.

"It's just amazing for me to have been that nurse who is now that patient [and] living with those symptoms, and just being able to give back and help in every way that I can. It just means so much," she added.

The Triangle Heart Walk is Sunday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Miller said in order to accommodate additional social distancing, there are five Heart Walk locations, including three in Raleigh and two in Durham.

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