WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — It’s something he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy.
A Wichita Falls father is expressing his regret for not getting vaccinated after being hospitalized with COVID-19 for about two weeks.
In May, Rafael Cruz graduated from the 68th Wichita Falls Firefighter Academy.
“I was healthy. I worked out every day,” Cruz said.
He was looking forward to finding a home with a fire department. That was until Cruz was hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia on his birthday in September.
“Like many other people I felt like I don’t know the side effects from the shot. So I was a little hesitant to get vaccinated. I never thought I’d be in a position like this. I regret not getting vaccinated.”
As his condition progressed, he lied in a bed at United Regional as one of the youngest patients on the floor.
“I was asking doctors and nurses every day, you know, am I going to die? It’s really scary when you’re a single father and you want to come home because your kids need you. So that’s one of the scariest things,” Cruz said.
Cruz was able to facetime his kids and family, including his young son who he cares for full-time when he had the strength but it was taking its toll.
“My O2 kept on dropping. Sure enough, my heart, my heart started giving out,” Cruz said.
BiPap was the next step, meaning, Cruz would be put on a ventilator.
“The last thing I wanted, you know, was to be intubated because you never know if you’re going to wake up and a lot of the times your family makes those choices if you don’t wake up,” Cruz said.
Thankfully, Cruz’s body responded to the treatments, which he credits to his prior fitness and never smoking a cigarette. He recovered and was released from the hospital.
“When I got out of the hospital, I felt like I just hit the lottery because nine people died that week the same week I was getting out. Nine people didn’t make it home to their families, Nine people didn’t make it home to their kids,” Cruz said.
He now has a different outlook on everything.
“And I do regret not getting the vaccine,” Cruz said.
After not only experiencing but seeing the effects and death firsthand, Cruz hopes others may also reconsider.
“I believe in freedom and all that, I don’t think this is a Democrat issue or Republican issue. I think it’s a health issue. They’re just asking you to do your part, but they’re making it harder than what it is, and more people are just going to keep dying every week until people realize their rights aren’t being taken away,” Cruz said.
Even though he’s out of the hospital the effects of COVID-19 still linger.
“Especially when you’re going to the refrigerator to get a drink of water or you forget the bottle of ranch when you’re trying to eat a pizza, and you’re like ‘oh, no’ it’s a process just to get back to the kitchen,” Cruz said. “I started to think, having had all that gear on and then being this weak right now. You know getting COVID can bring a grown man down to his knees.”
With hopes someone, even if it’s just one person, will learn from his experiences.
“I didn’t get vaccinated, almost lost my life but I thank God that I’m here and I think my mission is not over yet. I mean, I don’t know how many people will take my advice or some people just want just go their own way and take their chances, you know, but I believe if I can try and save lives and it actually gets to somebody, then I know I’m doing something good. I know I’m alive for a reason,” Cruz said.
Click here for a list of places to get the vaccine.