Former COVID patient helps nurse return to school, credits her for saving his life

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 7:18 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) -

An Odessa man is returning the favor after an Odessa Regional Medical Center nurse saved his life while he spent weeks inside the hospital suffering from the coronavirus.

For weeks Steve Thompson laid inside this tiny room gasping for breaths of air.

Too many times he sat in his reclining chair, let his head sink down and told God his time was finally up.

“That happened twice,” Thompson said. “What I didn’t know was when I got home my wife told me that the doctors had called her twice and they told her they almost lost me.”

But they didn’t.

Not with an angel on his side.

Our cameras were rolling when Steve and his nurse Crystal Renteria met for the first time since he was discharged from the hospital in February.

Steve was thrilled to see the woman he says saved his life.

“She’s the reason I’m here,” he said.

He says crystal was by his side every day for the five weeks he was inside the covid ward bringing him snacks.. Holding his hand through the pain.. Or simply popping in to say hello.

Support she says is essential for patients trying to push through hard times.

“If we can stay positive for our patients and we can push them and let them know that they can do it then they aren’t so easily to give up.”

We met with Crystal inside what used to be a COVID ward at Odessa Regional Medical Center.

It’s a place where she saw too many patients like Steve who needed their spirits lifted as the pandemic tightened its grip on Odessa.

“It brings back a lot of sad memories,” she said. “A lot of families I spoke with to give them good news, bad news.”

Being a nurse during a global pandemic is a job that’s hard for any of us to imagine. It’s even tougher to imagine how someone could do it with a glowing smile on their face.

“And it’s things like that that make our community better and better,” Thompson said. “People like Crystal. We’ve got to keep them here and take care of them.”

That’s why Steve has partnered with the Wood Family Foundation to get his faithful nurse a scholarship so she can go back to nursing school and earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I’ve been wanting to go back to school, and something always came up,” Renteria said. “And so, I was just very surprised. I was excited. A little emotional.”

A fitting reward for the nurse who made sure Steve could walk out this hallway and return to his family.

“I thank the good Lord for her, and people like her,” Thompson said. “It just means so much to me and my family. I got to see my grandson turn one on April 20th. I didn’t think I was going to be able to see that.”

Crystal said she plans to go back to school sometime in the next year or two to continue her education.

She’s honored to get this scholarship, but she says she was just doing her job. She shares the credit for Steve’s care with the rest of her dedicated team at ORMC.

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