Doctor unretires to battle COVID-19 surge, after beating virus herself

Posted at 6:44 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 21:49:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - "81 percent of people get a mild form of this disease; I'm one of them," says Dr. Eileen Natuzzi.

The Encinitas surgeon is still a bit weary after 16 days of self-quarantine from coronavirus symptoms. She retired in November after 25 years as an acute care surgeon but spends her time now in the Solomon Islands volunteering her services in undeserved communities. It was just over two weeks ago when she felt her symptoms coming on.

"When I was returning from the Solomon Islands, I started to experience some chills, a little bit of a fever, and just a slight cough," says Dr. Natuzzi.

She flew home a day early and got progressively sicker, with nausea, and intestinal issues. She spoke with a friend who's an infectious disease specialist and two ER doctors.

"They said, 'Well, it sounds like you have it, but you're probably not sick enough to be tested at this point in time.'"

Dr. Natuzzi was never able to get the test. But as of this week, she's back on her feet and recovering. When she's healthy enough, she'll answer Governor Newsom's call for retired health care workers to return to the job in the fight against coronavirus. For now, she's helping some friends in Hollywood with their cause.

"So, please, please, please, donate as much or as little as you can. Everything helps," says actress Alicia Silverstone on her Instagram video.

Dr. Natuzzi's and Silverstone have been trying to drum up support for donations to a GoFundMe page created by fellow actor Edward Norton. It's already raised close to 5-million dollars to get critical supplies to medical professionals.

"To donate money, to cover the cost of moving PPE supplies to locations that need it," says Dr. Natuzzi.

Places like New York, where supplies are desperately low. Dr. Natuzzi has a family member who works in one of those New York hospitals where mask supplies are so short; they use the same one all day.

"Here we have probably more of a broadly spread disease, and we have folks reusing masks that shouldn't be reused," says Dr. Natuzzi.