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Arkansas nurse returns to work after battle with COVID-19

Gwendolyn LaPoole is a registered nurse at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, who is using her story to calm the nerves of her patients.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — A nurse at Jefferson Regional Medical Center is back to work after a month off, battling with COVID-19.

Gwendolyn LaPoole finally got to put her scrubs back on on April 13.

"I tell my patients it's going to be alright. I try to keep them encouraged. I try to do the same thing for them that I did for myself," she said. 

RELATED: 'Honored that we get to do this job': Arkansas nurse on caring for COVID-19 patients

LaPoole now uses her story to calm the nerves of others. 

"Instead of being empathetic, I sympathize with them because I actually understand how it feels," she said. 

At the beginning of March, LaPoole was on the other side of the hospital bed. 

"I had every symptom. I had the loss of taste, sense, smell," she said. 

Suddenly, co-workers became caretakers. After contracting COVID-19 at work, LaPoole spent four days as a patient at Jefferson Regional Medical Center.

"It was horrible. I coughed so hard my head hurt, my back hurt, my stomach hurt, it was just horrible," she said. 

LaPoole, a registered nurse, described her battle as terrifying. 

"I had my doctor to reassure me every time he came to see me, 'you're going to be okay,' and I'm looking at him like, 'are you sure?'" she said. 

Through family encouragement, faith, and a month of rest, LaPoole was ready to step back into her position as a frontline hero. 

"I did a lot of praying and when I walked back in, I was not nervous," she said. 

Feeling more like herself every day, LaPoole said her journey with COVID-19 taught her to appreciate life more. 

"All of the arguments that people do, it's not worth it, because you could be here today and gone tomorrow," she said. 

For all the Arkansans listening, LaPoole has one message. 

"Just be safe and make sure you're doing what you're supposed to do and don't let fear drive you," she said. 

RELATED: 'It feels like it’s not real': Arkansas nurse in New York City shares powerful testimony from ICU

LaPoole is now planning on donating her plasma to help someone else in this fight.