“I’ve never been this sick” – Our conversation with a COVID-19 survivor

At first, he thought his asthma was just acting up but then his symptoms got a lot worse. Ernesto Castro, a 35-year-old father of two, was battling COVID-19.

We talked with Castro on Facebook Live.

The first sign of COVID-19 symptoms

A caseworker at a health care facility in Greeley, Castro spends his days consulting, helping, and talking to a lot of patients. He said he remembers interacting with a patient, shaking hands, and not sanitizing or washing his hand after. He’s not sure exactly when he contracted the new coronavirus, COVID-19, but a few days after that interaction he said he had a runny nose, congestion, cough, and a slight fever.

He decided to schedule a visit with his primary care doctor right away. His doctor suspected COVID-19 based on Castro’s symptoms and gave him a doctor’s note for off-site testing.

“As days passed, I thought, it’s probably the flu, but I just kept getting worse,” Castro explained.

He decided to drive himself to a testing site in Denver. When he tried to drive, he said he felt so weak and couldn’t catch his breath. So, instead of making the drive to Denver for testing, he asked his girlfriend to take him to the emergency room.

At the ER, Castro was placed in isolation, tested for COVID-19 and accessed by doctors and nurses. He was put on oxygen and doctors told him that his heart and lungs were working harder than they should be. That evening he was transferred by ambulance to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland.

In intensive care and on a ventilator

Castro spent the next nine days in a room by himself in an intensive care unit. Three days into his visit, he got his test results that confirmed COVID-19 and his condition started to worsen. Castro was placed in a medically induced coma and put on a ventilator, an experience he said terrified him.

Since visitors aren’t allowed in hospitals during this pandemic, Castro was left to fight off the coronavirus alone, but said he received great care from the medical team looking after him, “They didn’t just help me physically, they helped me mentally, emotionally, spoke with me and some even prayed with me. ”

After six days, Castro woke up from his coma and was taken off the ventilator, “I didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t remember things,” he explained.

He then began work to recover and get released from the hospital.

“I was so weak from being on a ventilator, being inactive, I had to have someone walk me to the bathroom. For me, that was incredibly embarrassing, never been in that situation before,” he said, “Physical therapists came in and started helping me with exercises, motivating me. They said to me that if I could prove I could physically walk by myself, they’d get me out of there.”

Quarantined to his hospital room he said he would just walk back and forth in his room to get stronger. The hospital staff brought in a stool so he could practice walking up and down stairs.

“I was showing everyone pictures of my kids and my family, it was the motivation I needed,” Castro said.

Leaving the hospital

After not seeing his family for almost two weeks, Castro was finally released on March 30th, “One of the happiest moments of my life.” Castro said, “My girlfriend pulled up with my daughter and I immediately started crying. Tears of joy of course.”

Shortly after he was admitted to the hospital, his girlfriend came down with and tested positive for COVID-19, she has since recovered. His 13-month-old daughter also came down with a fever, but she recovered in only a few days.

COVID-19 is more severe for older people and those with compromised immune systems or other chronic conditions.

Castro overall is young and healthy. He has asthma and is prediabetic, both of which made him more susceptible to complications from the virus, however before contracting the virus he had made several healthy lifestyle changes and was even training for a marathon, “I truly believe if it wasn’t because I took my health more seriously because I wanted to do that marathon, that I would be here.”

Castro is now home with his family and doing physical therapy to recover from the virus and get his lungs and body healthy again.