DRAPER, Utah — A beloved Canyons School District teacher hospitalized because of COVID-19 is expected to be released from the hospital Tuesday.
But, as her family explains, Charri Jensen's recovery is far from over as she faces long-term health effects from the virus.
The community has been rooting for "Mama J," as students call her, since she tested positive for COVID-19 just under three weeks ago. Charri's daughter Talesha Jensen said her mom got tested after learning another teacher at Corner Canyon High School, where Charri works, tested positive.
Charri went from trying to fight the virus on her own to ending up on a ventilator in the ICU less than a week later.
Talesha described her mother's battle with COVID-19 in the hospital as lonely.
"I just can't imagine how scary that is, where you're so close to losing your life but you're all alone," she said.
No one could visit Charri, and Talesha explained Charri was heavily sedated. She couldn't talk to her mom, and only got updates from doctors or nurses a few times a day.
"We couldn't do anything," Talesha said. "We just felt helpless."
Talesha said it has been such an awful experience to go through. On top of that, Charri's entire family also contracted COVID-19, and so did some of their close contacts.
Eventually, doctors brought Charri out of sedation enough to connect with her family over FaceTime. Charri couldn't talk, but used sign language to tell her family, "I love you."
It's through FaceTime that Charri's family has been able to tell her how much her students, school and the community love her, too.
"We've gotten hundreds — not even just like physical cards, but Facebook messages, random people reaching out," Talesha said.
She held up a stack of cards waiting to be opened and showed pictures of the support. People have sent balloons, gifts, flowers, and well wishes.
On Charri's birthday just over a week ago, a student's mother decorated the Jensen family lawn with giant signs and purple ribbons — Charri's favorite color.
Those purple ribbons are still tied all around the fence and yard as a reminder of the support.
Corner Canyon High School sports teams made posters and took pictures to show the love. Talesha said the football team dedicated a game to Mama J. Another group of students made a poster with pictures and notes to the teacher.
A student's niece recorded a video they sent to the family.
"I love you Mama J," the niece says, wearing purple. "You have to feel better."
Talesha described how the positive encouragement has kept the family going.
A few days ago, the ventilator tube came out and Talesha got to hear her mom's voice for the first time in weeks. She said Charri's voice was soft and raspy from being intubated, but it was amazing to hear her talk.
Now, they are focused on getting ready for Charri to come home on Tuesday.
"We're just ready to have her home," Talesha said. "It's crazy we're finally here after this couple of weeks, but it's just great to just finally see the glimpse of the end of it."
But coming home doesn't mean fully recovered.
Talesha said her mom's lungs are heavily damaged from COVID-19. The family FaceTimed medical staff at IMC Monday to go over the medical equipment they are sending home with Charri.
They will need to take Charri's vitals throughout the day every day and report back to the hospital.
"She still has a feeding tube in. So she has to relearn how to swallow," Talesha said.
But, Mama J won't be alone. As she powers through, the community is behind her.
"I keep telling my mom, 'You're so strong. You're so brave,'" she said. "'You just amaze me every day.'"