Anastacio Cruz spent three months in hospital battling COVID-19. At one stage, the Salinas resident was given a slim chance of survival. But he did survive. He and his family shared their story with KAZU's Michelle Loxton.
I spoke to 59-year-old Anastacio Cruz from his home in Salinas. His daughter holds up a smartphone so we can see each other over Zoom. He is resting and has supplemental oxygen to help him breath.
He took me back to late March, when he said he started getting body aches and went to see his doctor.
“It started with my feet hurting, my feet felt really tired, and I took a Tylenol and it felt a little better, but, that's how it went for four or five days until I got a fever,” said Cruz, translated from Spanish by Bob Gómez.
Cruz wasn’t tested for COVID-19 during that first doctor’s visit.
When he didn’t get better, he went back to the doctor. This time, he was told to go straight to the Emergency Department.
“My son took me over there and it was a very short time till the doctor told me that he was going to intubate me,” said Cruz.
Shortly after Cruz arrived at Natividad hospital, and was screened in their COVID-19 medical tent, he was put in a medically-induced coma and placed on a ventilator. And that is where he remained for half of the 13 weeks he spent in the hospital.
Despite having no pre-existing medical conditions, Cruz suffered a lot of challenges while in hospital: low blood pressure, lung infections and the collapse of his left lung.
The medical team that cared for Cruz has described his recovery as an amazing come-back story, and him as stoic and one of the most determined patients. Doctors said he was on the verge of death almost every day.
For Cruz’s family, as you can imagine, this whole experience was harrowing.
“We thought the worst. What if I'm never gonna see my dad again. And what if I'm never gonna talk to him ever again,” said Isela Cruz, Anastacio’s 24-year-old daughter who was holding up the phone.
She’s the English speaker in the family and had to act as the messenger between Natividad’s doctors, translators, and the rest of her family. She had to deliver the good and the bad news.
“I had to find a way, you know, to translate this to my family. It was very hard. I would just tell them literally what the doctor would tell me, and it was heartbreaking,” said Isela.
The Cruz family were unable to visit Anastacio because of the strict no-visitor policies still in place at hospitals. But they did connect via video conferencing.
“We would just ask the nurses to hold the camera for us, like close to his ear, so he could, you know... we could tell him some encouraging words to fight through this,” Isela said.
Anastacio Cruz was discharged on June 29 and is continuing his recovery with his family by his side. And this process will not be quick. Doctors say it will take time for him to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19. He recently completed speech therapy, which helps him with swallowing, and continues to have occupational and physical therapy, with a nurse visiting him at home.
Cruz is not thinking about going back to work right now. His priority is healing. Before getting COVID-19, he worked in the agriculture industry, cutting mushrooms for more than a decade.
When I asked him where he thinks he caught the coronavirus, he said he didn’t believe it was at work, but rather when he was out shopping.
The Cruz’s wanted to share their story because they want everyone to know how serious COVID-19 is.
“I just recommend that people be careful and that, well, still you have to work hard at your job, and be really careful, because with this disease, you don't know at what time, at what moment you can get infected,” said Anastacio Cruz.
“Take all the precautions. We have to protect the vulnerable. I do see a lot of, like, on social media, a lot of people are not believing in this. Everything that my family suffered while he was there, this is a very serious issue,” said Isela Cruz.
COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase locally. Over 380 people have been admitted in both Monterey and Santa Cruz counties since the start of the pandemic. Deaths are on the rise too. So far, as of Monday, 34 people have died because of the coronavirus.