Fire and COVID couldn’t stop this graduate

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Eden Prairie, May 6, 2021 –  As a single, working mom with four young children, Anai Arteaga is accustomed to pulling off a superhero juggling act on a daily basis. Yet, nothing could have prepared her for the avalanche of hardships that came her way over the past year.

When COVID began, Anai was working in the intensive care unit at a Twin Cities hospital. Some medical personnel at the hospital left their jobs because they feared the virus. To help the hospital cope with the staff shortages, Anai volunteered to work double shifts.

Then COVID ravaged Anai’s own family. Tragically, her beloved grandfather in Mexico died from the virus.

The grieving family was unable to travel to the funeral so they held their own prayer services. Though they wore masks and followed safety protocols, Anai believes that several family members contracted COVID during the gatherings. Her mother and aunt were seriously ill. Days later, Anai and two of her children tested positive.

“I had to sit up and have pillows behind me because I had trouble breathing. I was in and out of emergency rooms at least six times,” said Anai. 

Even after other family members recovered, Anai suffered painful and debilitating symptoms. At times, she had difficulty walking. Her battle with “long haul” COVID kept its grip on her for six months.

Despite the extended illness, Anai continued her studies at Hennepin Technical College (HTC) in licensed practical nursing. Already dealing with COVID and college classes, another challenge surprised Anai. In the fall of 2020, a fire broke out in her apartment building and her apartment unit suffered damage.

“It was terrifying. The smoke detectors were sounding at midnight,” said Anai.

Anai and her children weren’t hurt in the fire but clothing and toys were damaged and so were college supplies.

HTC faculty contacted the textbook company and the company agreed to replace the books for free. HTC provided her with a loaner laptop. In addition, she received an HTC Foundation crisis grant, which is funding that is provided to students to help them with unexpected emergencies.

“At first, I didn’t think that I should apply for it because I knew so many other people were needing help during COVID,” said Anai, “The grant really did help me and I appreciate it. I hope students realize they should ask for the grant if they need it.”

Throughout her illness and efforts to recover from the fire, Anai worked with her faculty to ensure that she could continue to study, attend labs, and complete testing for nursing school.  Her grade point average earned her a place on the HTC President’s List, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and she is graduating in the spring of 2021 with honors. She plans to continue her education in the years ahead because she wants to inspire her children to achieve in academics as well.

For now, Anai credits the tremendous support from her family for helping her reach her goals of regaining her health and graduating from HTC. She’s also thankful to her nursing instructor, Chris Kleckner, for providing a flexible schedule and encouragement.

“It was a struggle. My instructor really helped me. I considered leaving HTC for a while. But she gave me pep talks and would say, ‘You’re almost done. You got this!’ So that’s why I stuck it out,” said Anai.

Anai heard some welcomed news prior to graduation. She received a job offer at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in a medical surgery unit. Her new job is especially fitting because it is also a COVID surge unit. 

 

About Hennepin Technical College
Founded in 1972, Hennepin Technical College (HTC) is the largest stand-alone technical college in Minnesota. With campuses in Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie, the college has a diverse student population and offers degree and non-degree courses in over 45 programs. HTC is a member of Minnesota State, which includes 30 colleges and seven state universities.