My first symptoms started on March 12, and at that time we were told that people 65 and older and people with previous illnesses were the ones being infected.
Honestly, I thought I was safe. I was 30, and I took a lot of pride in my physical fitness. I went to the gym about five days a week. I’ve done kickbox training. I’m an Army vet, and I would go to the recruiting station and help incoming soldiers with the physical fitness aspect.
One morning I woke up and I noticed my body was incredibly sore. I didn’t think a whole lot about it, but along with the soreness, I had a really bad headache in the front of my face, near the eyes. The second day, I woke up and I felt like I had glass in my throat. I’ve had laryngitis and strep throat, and this was nothing like that.
That night, I started coughing and coughing. I ended up on the ground on my hands and knees because I felt like my lungs weren’t expanding. I drove myself to the VA in Long Beach. They said, “Your symptoms are concerning, and we’ve gotten permission from the CDC to test you for COVID.” They ran the test and said, “Go home, stay in your room, and we’ll give you a call.”
I got the call from the infectious disease department, and they said, “You have tested positive for COVID-19.” My heart sank. That night, not only was I coughing, but I felt like I was drowning in my own lungs. I decided to go back to the VA. They looked at my lungs and they said, “Not only are you COVID positive, but you have pneumonia, and it’s severe enough that we have to hospitalize you now.”
Mind you, I was their first COVID patient. They were learning from me. On the third day in the hospital, I had a moment when I thought I was going to pass away. I couldn’t breathe.
On the fourth day I was approved to be in one of the very first drug trials. By the second day on the medication, my white blood cells were spiking up. So it was improving. They felt comfortable enough to send me home. One thing the doctor was adamant about was that there’s no way we can say for sure it’s the medication, because we have nothing to compare it with. Maybe (I was) going to get better anyway.
After five or six days at home, I was back up, moving around. If you don’t move, you can actually have blood clots with COVID. I started with a five-minute walk, then a seven-minute walk, then 10 minutes.
Five months later, I got pneumonia again. I had never had pneumonia before (getting COVID-19). The doctor said this is something I will be more prone to going forward, so I have to be careful. But now I feel like I’m living my life again. I’m back at work. I work out constantly. I even fight, doing jiujitsu. But I do have asthma, and I have lung complications due to the scar tissue in my lungs.
I remember telling a friend, I wish I could find people like me and we could start pushing information out. I found Survivor Corps. It was started by a single mom, and now it’s a massive grassroots movement of survivors and scientists. It’s bringing people together to educate. We’re donating our blood, donating our antibodies to try to find a cure or vaccine—whatever we can do to help. I’m tired of complaining about it. I want to do something about it. Now I’m trying to use my voice and my experience to talk to young people to let them know, hey, we can get it, too. No matter what, you are not invincible