MESQUITE, Texas - A Mesquite man says he may never fully recover from what COVID-19 has done to his body.
He battled the disease for 15 months. He has damage to his brain, lungs and partial paralysis. His hope is that his story is not yours.
Cesar Gonzalez survived COVID-19. But is by his own admission, he says he’s a shell of the man he was before — inside and out. He wants people to know what COVID can do.
Cesar is a long-haul COVID casualty, contracting the virus before there were vaccines.
"It took my life away," he said.
"The whole family was struck with COVID back in September 2020," explained his wife, Melissa Gonzalez. "He was sick. We were all sick for about a week."
The family recovered, but Cesar got worse. The virus attacked his nervous system, taking part of his memory and motor skills.
"I’m unable to drive. I’m unable to even ride a bicycle. My balance is off," Cesar said. "So in technicality, I really don't have a life anymore."
Cesar was in medical facilities for months and in a medically-induced coma for 16 days.
"When I woke up, I could not move from the neck down," he said.
Just to get up from a chair is a struggle.
"He was a handyman here at home. He was always doing something at home," Melissa said. "And then when he wasn’t with the projects, he was always riding his Harley."
"I was 6’2", 320-plus pounds, and I was arrogant," Cesar said.
"You were like the people who don't believe. ‘It’s just a virus,’" Melissa said.
"Yeah. ‘It’s just a virus. No big deal.’ Basically, I commanded respect wherever I walked because it was just the way I carried myself, in which I do regret now," Cesar said.
He hopes to go back to his American Airlines job but has a sense of humor about his reality.
"And if that doesn't pan out, well I can always go be a greeter at Walmart," he said.
But Cesar warns COVID is no laughing matter.
"If I had one wish which I do, it'd be a vaccine for COVID was available when this happened to me," he said. "Because I wouldn’t be like this."
Cesar hopes for someone who is not vaccinated that his story will convince them COVID is real and that the best protection is the vaccine.