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Roberta Arriaga

Roberta Arriaga is an operating room nurse at a Houston hospital, so she is familiar with caring for patients. However, she’s always been the caretaker, never a patient. 

On March 19, 2023, Arriaga was on her way to pick up lunch for her boyfriend, Ruben Montoya, and her three kids. This quick errand took a turn for the worse.

“I had a green light,” she says. “That’s pretty much all I remember until I woke up at [Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital’s] ICU (intensive care unit).”

What Arriaga doesn’t remember is that she called Montoya, but a bystander took the phone from her and explained to him there had been a car accident. He left work and made it to the accident scene where he saw two totally crashed vehicles and firefighters removing Arriaga from one. She was immediately put in the ambulance.

Montoya followed the ambulance to LBJ Hospital. On his way, he called Arriaga’s father, who lives in Amarillo, and gave him news no father wants to hear. Arriaga’s father quickly booked a flight to Houston to be by his daughter’s side.

Arriaga suffered internal bleeding, had a liver laceration to her right hepatic artery, a spleen aneurysm and lots of bruises.

“I am forever grateful for LBJ’s trauma team,” she says. “My ICU nurse was amazing. I remember waking up and seeing that I had an arterial line and telemetry, two IV’s and a blood transfusion. Me, being a nurse, I knew what was going on and she calmed me down. But I kind of lost it then. I knew it wasn’t good and I’ll never forget, she told me, ‘I need you to fight. I see fight in you and you need to fight.’ Nurses never make the best patients, but she was great.”

Arriaga spent five days in the ICU and another three in a step-down unit.

“The doctors were amazing,” she says. “The nurses were so accommodating, allowing my family to take turns to visit me.”

Arriaga was grateful to the nurses who kept Montoya and her father up-to-date every time she went into the operating room. She’s also thankful for the trauma team for explaining everything to Montoya and answering all his questions.

While Arriaga never thought she’d be a patient, it’s taught her a lot.

“My hospital stay definitely made me more empathetic toward my patients,” she says. “I definitely see life in a different perspective. I didn’t know what my outcome was going to be, but I’m grateful and now looking forward to making more memories with my family.”