A Talmadge man is grateful to be home for the holidays after spending more than a month in the hospital battling COVID-19.
Paul Castro, 57, remains on oxygen as he recovers from home, and wants to send out a message for holiday safety protocols and vaccinations.
“Thank God I was strong enough to handle it. But I don’t think a lot of people will be able to handle it. It’s tough. Trust me,” said Castro.
Castro, it would seem, was an unlikely candidate for the virus.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
He’s an age-group CrossFit champion. He lifted weights six to seven times a week. He is also a personal trainer.
But Castro was also unvaccinated, he says, due to an adverse reaction to medications while being treated for pancreatitis.
“I can’t say I regret it, but I know it’s been a tough battle that I would not want to go through again,” said Castro.
Castro knows he’ll face criticism for not being vaccinated, and says it saddens him.
And he also has a message that suggests careful thought while making a choice on whether to get vaccinated.
“Whether you’re vaccinated or not vaccinated, it’s your decision. But I do believe that you need to look at your family, you need to look at everything around you. You need to decide what you value in your life,” said Castro.
Castro was originally admitted to the hospital on Nov. 13, he weighed 184 lbs. He’s down to 144 lbs, losing 40 pounds in just over a month. He currently needs oxygen to help his breathing.
He can currently walk about 20 steps and go a half an hour without oxygen. But he also credits his fitness for his ability to survive the virus.
“Are you healthy enough, are you confident enough, and are you dedicated to go fight the battle to make it out. Because I’m telling you, it’s not easy,” said Castro.
Castro says it’s not his place to judge people on their vaccination decision, but has cautionary advice based on his difficult experience.
“If you’re the person that has to fight the battle, and you’re going to have to be put on a ventilator or whatever it is, maybe it’s not the best choice. And I think people need to be realistic with themselves. And also, I think people, need to be not so careless in exposing other people.
Meanwhile, Castro has relied on his faith, and patience, to help in his recovery. He says he’s thrilled to be home for the holidays.
“Thank God. I’m so happy, I could do a back flip if I wasn’t worried about landing on my head, and losing my oxygen. I’ll do whatever you want. It’s the best feeling ever,” said Castro.