Southern Hills ER nurse back to work after battling COVID, cancer, pneumonia

Posted at 6:24 AM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 11:20:31-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Elary Martinez works as a registered nurse in the ER at Southern Hills Hospital. His wife nominated him for nurse's appreciation week, saying that through a year of incredible medical hardships, he still put in the work to help others heal.

Near the start of the pandemic, Elary contracted COVID-19. Medical exams later revealed he was in for an even bigger fight -- lung cancer.

“While I was here at work, I was having shortness of breath, my heart rate was up to 130 which is pretty high so I checked in to the ER,” said Elary. “They did a CAT scan of my chest. They were looking for COVID at the time, which they did find.. but they also found a large tumor in my lung. It was neuroendocrine cancer of my right lung.”

Because of the pandemic, it took months for Elary to get that diagnosis and undergo treatment. Eventually, he had surgery to remove his right lung. It was a dangerous surgery because his tumor was pushed up against his heart.

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After the surgery, Elary got pneumonia. Just two months later, he was back at work.

“When I first came back, I was giving myself breathing treatments during my lunch hour. I don’t have to do that anymore thank goodness. I’ve gained my strength as time went on,” Elary said.

His hardship made Elary an even better nurse. He says it allowed him to give COVID patients some peace of mind by explaining his own experience with the virus.

It’s not just people he’s nursing back to health, he and his wife also foster neonatal kittens.

“Our home is kind of set up like a makeshift vets office. We have incubators, we do tube feedings, give them fluids and all kinds of things to get them rehabilitated and adopted out,” Elary added.

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Through it all, the frontline hero remains humble.

“It’s nice to be recognized however I have a team that I work with every single day I really wish all of them could get recognized as well,” Elary said.

Elary isn’t just being featured on our newscast, he’s also going to be spotlighted in the hospital’s medical magazine later this summer.