Rublas Ruiz admitted it was an unnecessary risk waiting to get vaccinated.
For months now, the South Florida nurse tempted fate treating the sickest of COVID-19 patients without the immunity provided by a vaccine, a decision that finally caught up with him in late July.
Ruiz, an ICU nurse at Kendall Regional Medical Center, developed a fever and tested positive for the Delta variant. During the first week, he recovered at home, but the second brought him to the very hospital he’s worked at for nine years.
“I was hoping that I was gonna get through without being hospitalized. It was not a pleasant experience at all," he said. "Thanks to the great help of our team, it was easier and it was a good outcome.”
“We were working together. To see him at the hospital was tough because know what happens with this virus," said Wilson Olivo, a fellow ICU nurse. "I decided with my wife that we would get vaccinated.”
Fellow nurses and doctors, a few themselves unvaccinated, watched as he battled the virus with the help of oxygen.
It was enough to persuade them to finally get the shot.
“My friend, because we are together helping everybody here ... once he saw me with the virus, he went out and got it," Ruiz said.
Vaccine hesitancy among health care workers remains an issue.
In Ruiz's case, he said he was waiting for the FDA to grant full approval to Pfizer's vaccine, which happened weeks after he came down with the virus.
Kendall Regional doesn’t require staff to be vaccinated or undergo routine testing, so the hope is Ruiz's story will change attitudes.
“I think it changes the perception, having one of your leaders be one of your patients in your hospital for two weeks," said Dr. Marlon Margarejo of Kendall Regional.