Recently recovered from COVID-19, Congressmember Salud Carbajal walked away from the experience with one key conclusion: Doctors know what the hell they’re doing.
Carbajal and his wife, Gina, both survived mild brushes with the virus, but that didn’t make the experience any less taxing — Gina had to quarantine herself for over 17 days, and Salud had body aches so painful he could barely walk.
The story begins on October 1, when Utah Senator Mike Lee informed Carbajal and others who also live in his Washington, D.C., building that he tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, the Carbajals both tested negative for the virus but were told to quarantine for 14 days regardless. But days into the couple’s quarantine, Salud began to experience the chills, a 101-degree fever, and mild body aches.
So he got retested and came up positive for the virus, thus resetting his quarantine time to 10 days from the onset of his symptoms. He was also made to quarantine in a separate room from Gina, who up until this point hadn’t tested positive for the virus.
“Every day, my wife would send me a text that says, ‘Good morning, honey bunny,’” Carbajal said. “Every day, my symptoms were mild, but they got worse every day. My body aches by the end were so bad that I thought I needed a wheelchair to get around. And then, interestingly enough, it just vanished at the end.
“We feel we are two of the lucky ones who went through this ordeal. Some people start having respiratory issues, and that’s the scary one.”
Gina suspected she was positive for the virus days later, though her worst symptom was a case of the sniffles. She tested positive days after Salud and thus had to restart her quarantine for 10 days from the start of her symptoms. Finally, after 17 days, she was done on October 20, five days after Salud’s quarantine officially finished.
“Our scientists and doctors know what the hell they are talking about. If my wife and I hadn’t been told, we wouldn’t have quarantined, and we would have flown home after testing negative [the first time]. That would have been a public health disaster,” Carbajal said. “We could have infected our family, our grandchildren.”
The Carbajals have mostly stayed home and continued their quarantine a bit longer since returning to their home on the South Coast. This weekend, they will see their 5-year-old and 2-year-old grandkids for the first time since they tested positive for the disease.
Carbajal is still healing from some of the residual symptoms of the virus — namely fatigue. He reported periods of extreme exhaustion that he still battles during his work day. During his quarantine, he said he was able to keep up with about 90 percent of his scheduled Zoom calls despite the fatigue is still experiencing from the virus.
Overall, he considers himself lucky.
“My advice to everybody is, don’t get caught up in the political rhetoric about wearing masks or not,” Carbajal said. “This is not like the flu; it’s serious. We were healthy, so maybe that helped us, but you can’t help sleeping all day with the chills wondering if you are going to be one of the lucky ones or not.”
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