PARK RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A front-line worker who spent 108 days in the hospital and rehab facilities after catching COVID-19 is finally back home.

Sue Lemba says she was exposed to COVID-19 while working at Hackensack University Medical Center back in March. She finally returned home in July after spending 108 days in the hospital and rehab facilities. (Credit: CBS2)

Neighbors lined a Park Ridge road to welcome home a woman who fought a long fight.

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Sue Lemba says she was exposed to COVID-19 while working at Hackensack University Medical Center back in March.

“At that time, we weren’t really wearing masks and, you know, they didn’t know how it was spread, but I do know I did get it there,” Lemba told CBS2’s Cory James.

That’s where Lemba was admitted after testing positive for the coronavirus.


While there, her condition got worse, and at one point, she went into cardiac arrest for close to two minutes.

“I don’t know if people believe … I felt that I had died and I had a choice to go into a tube, two tubes, one had flowers coming out and the other one was a dark hole,” Lemba said. “I thought to myself, I’m not ready to go … If I go in the one with the flowers, I may not come out, so I said I wanted to go home.”

Medical staff revived the 63-year-old woman, who was battling a severe case of pneumonia caused by the illness.

She had a chest tube and breathing tube, and she couldn’t get out of bed.

Lemba’s husband, Vincent, feared the worst.

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“I was worried. We thought we were going to lose her,” he said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

After multiple setbacks, including a rehab discharge that days later resulted in a trip back to the ICU, Lemba’s health started to improve.

One of her physicians at Kessler Rehab in Saddle Brook said the wife and mom of two never gave up.

“From the first day, anything we asked her to do, she was willing to get up and do. She never really limited herself in what she wanted to do. Sometimes, you know, she wasn’t able to do everything immediately, but she definitely worked towards the goal,” Dr. Anthony Lee said.

And that hard work paid off.

“I’m very happy. It’s been a long road,” Lemba said.

While the number of cases are down in the tri-state area, Lemba hopes people will not get too comfortable.

“People need to wear a mask. It’s very important because you don’t know what could happen to you,” Lemba said.

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A message from a front-line worker who nearly lost her life, but survived.