Hospital housekeeper Rosaura Quinteros was an uplifting force in Jason Denney’s daily battle to survive COVID-19 in his isolation room.
At his darkest point, 52-year-old Denney learned he had likely infected his son Sean, 16.
“It was a really bad day for me,” Denney tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. “She was there after I found out my son was positive and I was scared, struggling to breathe. Everything was negative with my physical pain, and now I was in such mental pain with the guilt. I was crying thinking about what I did to my son."
Denney says of Quinteros, "She showed up at just the right time.”
Seeing this strong man at his breaking point greatly impacted the shy and humble Quinteros, a mother of two who had immigrated from Guatemala. The two Catholics found strength in their faith.
"I told him that his son is a young man, and not so susceptible to the virus. I told him, 'Put your faith and put your hope and put your health in God,'" says Quinteros, 33.
For more on the duo's bond, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.
Denney says he went through a lot in his military career as a pilot, but "you never know when life is going to hit you hard."
Most days Denney and Quinteros chatted about normal everyday things as he tried to breathe, living “five minutes at a time” while drenched in sweat.
The father of three, a retired Air Force Colonel who now works for a Department of Defense contractor, was one of the first COVID-19 patients at Orlando Health’s Dr. P. Phillips Hospital when admitted March 23.
He refused to go on a ventilator because he felt it would “take his mind away” and not allow him to fully fight the disease. Instead, he was fully awake while pressurized tubes shoved air into his lungs to keep him alive.
The daily visits from Quinteros gave him much-needed relief.
“I wanted to tell her what it meant to me to talk to her every day, about the weather, just something normal,” Denney says. “She wasn’t afraid to get close to me when she cleaned. That means so much and it was part of my healing.”
He was released on March 31 and has since returned to his job while making strides to regain his former strength.
“God places us in people’s lives for a reason and usually it is to help and serve,” Quinteros says. “But Jason also helped me and a group of people who are the invisible ones in health care, who no one thinks about: these teams that go in and clean and order rooms, risking themselves. Jason shines a light not just on me, but also the team I represent.”
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