"I've been working out for 13 years," Paz said. "In the military, I work every day, I'm very active and this almost killed me."
The Huntington Beach resident first started experiencing symptoms in early March. She received a positive test result from VA Long Beach Healthcare System on March 16. She spent six days in the hospital, where she developed severe pneumonia.
"I remember when I went in there and the nurses looked terrified and fascinated at the same time," she said.
Paz said that she was VA Long Beach's first COVID-19 patient.
"I definitely felt like I was in a fishbowl because everybody wanted to get the look at the first patient," Paz said.
Paz is documenting her journey, from her diagnosis in March to her on-going battle with the virus's long-term effects today.
"It's been nine months, and I still don't feel normal," she said. "I'm still going to the doctor. I had a CAT scan two days ago. I even caught pneumonia again."
Paz, who has developed asthma, said the physical effects are severe, but the psychological effects are often overlooked.
"For those of us who are going through something so serious and so severe, it will trigger stuff that you've had in the past," Paz said. "Whether it's a bad marriage, whether it's going out to war, whatever it is. It puts you back into fight or flight, which is where I've been for quite a while."
Paz said that she is still dealing with panic attacks and anxiety, but sought help.
"I will be the first one to raise my hand and say, 'I did look for help,'" Paz said. "I have been going to therapy."
Dr. Sonika Ung is the Clinical Psychologist and Health Behavior Coordinator at Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach. She said it is important for veterans to seek help immediately.
"For veterans, particularly those who are living with a mental health concern, it's really important to remain connected," said Dr. Ung. "Which is why VA Long Beach worked so hard to transfer to telehealth as quickly as possible."
Dr. Ung said that the hospital distributed iPads to its patients and veterans at home.
"This is, I would say, the silver lining of the pandemic," Dr. Ung said. "For a lot of veterans, it's difficult to travel for whatever reason, so being able to increase that access is good no matter what."
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there is help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.
For a list of mental health resources for veterans, visit their website.
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