VANCOUVER -- After spending two weeks at Surrey Memorial Hospital battling COVID-19, Cambridge Elementary School music teacher Darlene Lourenco is back home and grateful to be alive.

“I feel immense gratitude and love for everybody, everyone who helped me and everyone who thought of me and prayed for me,” said Lourenco.

Speaking from her front steps, Lourenco said she’d been worried about catching COVID-19 at school since she returned to her portable classroom in September.

“I have over 500 kids I see every week; I have nine classes a day from kindergarten up to a Grade 4-5 split,” she said. “I just kept waiting, hoping I would feel safe. I never really did.”

After several confirmed cases among students and staff at the school, Lourenco tested positive for the virus on Nov. 6.

“I don’t have any doubt that’s where I got it, because I don’t go anywhere,” she said.

The 55-year-old music teacher spent two weeks in hospital, much of that time in the intensive care unit.

“I was hooked up to monitors all over me, I could barely move, I was in a lot of pain,” Lourenco said. “I had a lot of anxiety and fear. I’m not as brave as my daughter was.”

Lourenco’s 18-year-old daughter Lindsey died of leukemia in 2013. Lourenco said she felt Lindsey’s spirit with her as she battled COVID-19.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that my daughter was somehow with me there,” she said.

Lourenco was discharged from hospital on Tuesday. While Cambridge Elementary, which has been closed because of a declared COVID-19 outbreak, is scheduled to reopen next week, the veteran music teacher won’t be there.

“I’m not ready to go back,” she said. “I can’t actually sing a note. I have very weak weak lungs. It will likely take some therapy. We’ll see what kind of changes they’ve made while I’ve been gone. I’m probably a little bit scared to go back into a portable, to be honest.”

Lourenco believes teachers who work across multiple cohorts shouldn’t be in portables, and should have access to sinks and increased cleaning protocols.

While beating COVID-19 has changed her, it hasn’t dampened her love for teaching music.

“I miss teaching, I miss my students,” she said. “I want them to know that I’m fine and I will be back.”