BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. (CNN) - A 15-year-old from Florida spent nearly a month in the hospital with COVID-19, treated with a ventilator and a medically induced coma. She is now encouraging others to get vaccinated.

Just weeks ago, 15-year-old Paulina Velasquez was fighting for her life in a Florida hospital. She tested positive for COVID-19 on July 11, as she was making plans to get vaccinated. Her symptoms started with a runny nose, but then came the headaches, loss of taste and smell and the struggle to breathe.

Less than a week after she tested positive, Paulina Velasquez’s oxygen levels dropped below 70. When she went to the hospital July 17, doctors immediately put her on a ventilator. She stayed on it for 11 days.

Paulina Velasquez, 15, spent nearly a month battling COVID-19 and pneumonia in a Florida...
Paulina Velasquez, 15, spent nearly a month battling COVID-19 and pneumonia in a Florida hospital. Doctors had to put her on a ventilator then in a medically induced coma. She asks that anyone eligible for the vaccine gets the shot.(Source: Velasquez Family via CNN)

“The last thing I remember is walking into the ER, and I was like dragging my feet. It was hot outside, and I just couldn’t breathe normally,” the 15-year-old said.

Paulina’s mother, Agnes Velasquez, also tested positive for COVID around the same time, even though she’d been fully vaccinated in April. She insisted on staying in her daughter’s hospital room, scared and praying for the teenager’s life.

“I did pray every single day. There was no day or moment that I would not pray,” Agnes Velasquez said.

Paulina Velasquez also had pneumonia, and doctors put her into a medically induced coma. She doesn’t remember a lot of the experience but does remember waking up and seeing her mom by her side.

After almost a month hooked up to lifesaving machines, Paulina Velasquez was finally able to go home Aug. 13. She is now feeling much better.

“I’m able to walk, finally able to move around, do stuff by myself. I still need a little bit of help, but I’m improving every single day,” she said.

The 15-year-old also has a message for teenagers and others who feel they don’t need the vaccine.

“This virus does not pick and choose who to infect, and it could hit you as hard as it hit me. I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through. My message technically is just if you’re eligible to get the vaccine, please do. I plan on getting vaccinated as soon as my doctor lets us know when I can,” she said.

Florida health officials are reporting an average of more than 18,000 COVID cases per day. Among those, an alarming number of young people have been hospitalized.

Over the past week, Florida reported a statewide case positivity rate of more than 15%. By comparison, New York’s COVID positivity rate is 3.3%.

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