North Hollywood COVID survivor recounts battle with virus, issues with hospitals

A local COVID-19 survivor in North Hollywood had the virus at the beginning of the pandemic. She said it was hard for her to breathe and seek medical help.
NORTH HOLLYWOOD (KABC) -- 38-year-old Rocio Alvarado caught COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

"When I got sick, there was 254 cases in the U.S.," said Alvarado.

According to the CDC, there are now more than 15 million coronavirus cases in the United States.

During those dark days in March, Alvarado didn't know if she would survive the virus.

"I remember one day, I'm sitting in my bed and like thinking, I'm gonna write a letter to my family in case I don't make it and just leave it here for them," said Alvarado.

Alvarado said it was extremely difficult to get any medical help. ABC7 reported on California's testing at the beginning of the pandemic in March, and how the state was far behind almost every state in getting people tested.

"I remember asking for a mask and they wouldn't give me one," said Alvarado.

She said hospitals wouldn't test her for the virus and repeatedly turned her away.

She documented her COVID journey on Instagram to show friends and family the reality of her experience.

"I didn't have insurance at the time and I was like I can't breathe anymore. So, I went to urgent care and literally spent the last of the money that I had on that visit. My friend actually had to Venmo me money to get my prescriptions," said Alvarado.

Her breathing became so impaired that her brother, Ruben Alvarado, flew out from Texas to help take care of her.

"I've never seen anybody that sick in my entire life where she couldn't move. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't walk 10 steps without being completely tired," said Ruben Alvarado.

"There were times where I'd wake up in the middle of the night, like gasping for air. So, when my brother finally got here, I finally felt comfortable sleeping. Because I knew that if something happened, I'd have someone to help me," Alvarado said.

Alvarado was eventually able to get tested. But she said her recovery lasted about three months. She experienced fatigue, trouble breathing and hair loss.

The only underlying condition Alvarado said she has that could attribute to her extreme case of the virus is her weight.

"Now, we do know that obesity is a comorbidity for COVID. It's really dangerous for people who are overweight to get COVID."

Back in March, we knew very little about COVID-19. But now that we have months-worth of data, Alvarado said we should act responsibly by wearing masks and following CDC guidelines.

"We have more data, we have more knowledge. We just need to accept it and do what we need to do to get on track again," said Alvarado.

For more information about the coronavirus, click here.

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