RICHMOND, Va - An EMT with the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) is a one-of-a-kind essential worker to her family, and now she has the doll to prove it.
April O'Quinn was one of five national winners in the "Heroes with Heart" contest, run by American Girl.
Families were asked to nominate a hero fighting COVID-19 who risked their lives to help others during the pandemic.
O'Quinn was nominated by her niece, Lacey, who lives in Texas. Lacey nominated her aunt after the EMT worker returned to work after recovering from COVID-19.
"The lung problems were probably the worst part for me. I couldn't lay down. I had to sit up. I slept sitting up," O'Quinn said.
Emergency Medical Services seemed like the perfect fit for O'Quinn, and she didn't hesitate to return once doctors gave her the OK.
"She didn't hesitate for a moment," Lacey wrote on her contest submission, which was published by American Girl.
"I feel very fortunate that I only have the minor problems that I have and I can be back to work," O'Quinn said. "I like to get in there, help people, and then step back into the dark."
O'Quinn got a phone call last month from Lacey with the exciting news.
"Lacey was on the other side screaming that we had won — I was in shock," O'Quinn said. "I had no words. I ended up crying because I couldn't say anything."
"The excitement and smiles as she opened her hero doll were all worth it," she said.
April is now one of five essential workers nationwide celebrated by American Girl.
"We at the Richmond Ambulance Authority are so excited for April and her niece Lacey. We're thankful American Girl held a contest to recognize our frontline heroes and are thrilled to have one of our employees represent EMS," RAA CEO Chip Decker said.
The winners received a custom American Girl Doll and outfit in their hero's likeness and a $250 gift card.
"The stars and brightness in her face and eyes was amazing. It was all worth the pictures, even though I hate pictures," O'Quinn said.
The review she cares about most is holding onto her doll thousands of miles away in Texas.
"It'll be something that neither one of us will ever forget. It's a bond that I'll hold with her forever," O'Quinn said.
This story was originally published by Jake Burns on WTVR in Richmond, Virginia.