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Healthcare worker shares story after battling COVID-19

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 11:49:59-04

San Diego (KGTV)- After spending nearly months in the ICU, a local healthcare worker, who tested positive for COVID-19, is sharing his story.

"At that time, I thought for certain I was going to die."

Ezequiel Melendez Jr., also known as Zeke, spent 57 days in the hospital after contracting COVID-19.

The Respiratory Care Technician says he's always been an active and healthy person. He did not have any underlying medical conditions. His struggle with coronavirus started in early March with flu-like symptoms.

"I didn't meet the criteria at the time for COVID testing," says Melendez. "You were supposed temperature of 102; mine was 100. They told me don't go back to work until 24 hours with no symptoms."

Melendez says seven days later, his symptoms got worse.

"Next thing I know, I'm laying on a gurney preparing for intubation with an endotracheal tube."

Melendez's girlfriend, Grace Carbajal, who is also a healthcare worker, says it was a challenge seeing him sick.

"Being a nurse and not being able to be there at the bedside, also being a loved one and not being able to be there for him and with him, was very difficult," says Carbajal.

After spending weeks in the hospital, Melendez was released in late May. He says it will be a while until he feels like himself again. He is still under doctors' care and has physical therapy weekly.

He also has a message for everyone as the pandemic continues.

"We need protection and everyone doing their part to wear masks," says Melendez. "I was one who thought it was just something like the flu, maybe exaggerated at the time. But when it happened to me, it was a smack to the face."

Melendez says he would like to thank everyone for the support and those who donated to the GoFund Me that was created while he was in the hospital. The funds are being used for his medical expenses and physical therapy sessions.