By Kevin Deutsch
Paulina Velasquez is one step closer to beating COVID-19.
The 15-year-old J.P. Taravella High School student went on life support after testing positive for the coronavirus on July 11, and doctors placed her in a medically induced coma.
But on Wednesday, Paulina walked around her hospital room at Broward Health Medical Center for the first time, chatting with reporters during a live-streamed news conference that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago.
“I’m feeling much better, just happy that I’m not under that ventilator anymore,” said Paulina, a member of Church By the Glades in Coral Springs. “I was very scared because I had COVID, and I didn’t know I was going to stay here for that many days. I couldn’t breathe….I had back pain.”
Paulina, who was not vaccinated before she got sick, encouraged others to get the free COVID-19 shots, which studies have shown are highly effective.
“I think everybody should get it,” she said. “I encourage everybody to get it. I didn’t want to get it at first because I was scared….but now I want to get it for sure. And I know I’m going to get it after I get out of the hospital.”
When her physical therapist arrived for their session Wednesday, Paulina said she wanted to try walking.
“I walked for the first time today. It was my idea,” Paulina said. “We used the walker, and we walked around the bed like three times. I was happy.”
Paulina’s mother, Agnes, who also tested positive for COVID-19, has spent weeks at her daughter’s bedside.
To see Paulina walking, she said, “felt amazing.”
“I did not expect her to walk so quickly,” Agnes Velasquez said. “I thought it was going to take a little more time as she recently came off a ventilator and out of a coma. She didn’t want to stop; she wanted to walk and walk. There were tears in my eyes.”
“I feel like a big rock just came off my chest.”
Paulina’s family is raising money for her medical expenses via a GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $24,000 toward its $50,000 goal as of Thursday.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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