Since March, more than 22,000 Alabamians have been hospitalized with COVID-19, some requiring months of inpatient care.
Victor Perea, 38, has been fighting the virus for almost three months at UAB Hospital. His wife, Magaly Cordova, said the diagnosis came as a shock. Before this illness, she said Perea didn’t have any pre-existing conditions.
“He was healthy,” Cordova said. “He was a gym guy, you know, eating healthy, go to the gym every day. And really careful about this virus.”
Perea, who lives in Homewood, had recently gotten a new job installing IT systems. He found out he had COVID-19 in early September, after a co-worker tested positive for the virus.
Cordova said initially, Perea didn’t have any symptoms.
“The second day, he started with a little bit of coughing and fever,” she said. “But just a little.”
A few days later, Perea developed shortness of breath, started having bad headaches and lost his sense of taste and smell.
They went to an urgent care clinic, but he didn’t improve. A few days later, Perea went to UAB Hospital. Unable to accompany him as a visitor, Cordova waited for an update.
“He called me and he said, ‘Hey I’m going to stay two days.’” she said. “And I was like ‘OK yeah, yeah two days … Great, so you’re going to be better, you know. You’re in the hospital now. They’re going to put you oxygen and all the stuff.’”
Perea stayed much longer than two days. About a week after he was admitted, he was placed on a ventilator and after about a month, one of his lungs collapsed.
Cordova said some days it seemed like Perea was getting better and then everything would change.
“They called me one night and they said, ‘Yeah, you know, maybe he’s not going to get through the night. So you can come and say goodbye. He’s really bad right now.’ So I was like, losing my mind,” she said.
Perea was sedated, but Cordova went to see him. She wanted to talk to him.
“I was like, ‘No. I’m going, but I’m going not to say goodbye. I’m going to tell him that he needs to be strong,’” she said.
Victor made it through the night. In the coming days he started to get better.
He is now in UAB’s Pulmonary Intensive Care Unit. He has a tracheostomy to help him breathe and he’s lost a lot of strength. But Cordova is finally seeing real improvement.
“I went to see him and for the first time in two months, three weeks, he say, ‘Hi baby.’ And I was just screaming and crying,” Cordova said.
It’s been nearly three months since Perea was first admitted to the hospital. Cordova doesn’t know how much longer he will be there, but it will likely take a long time for him to recover.
She wants others to understand how bad it can get.
“Some people say like, ‘Oh no it’s not real or it’s just like a flu.’ But it’s not,” Cordova said. “This virus is real. It’s real and it’s killing people.”
It has also been difficult financially for Cordova and Perea, who have two kids. Cordova has continued her job cleaning houses, but Perea has not been able to work for months and he doesn’t have health insurance. While they have not received any medical bills yet, Cordova expects the hospital stay to cost thousands of dollars.
A friend has started a GoFundMe page to help the family.