SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jim Kassis said his wife made him go to the hospital after he stopped feeling well.
"I remember waking up in the ambulance," Kassis said. "I remember getting to the hospital. Vaguely. After that is pretty much a blur."
The 78-year-old Sacramento man tested positive for the novel coronavirus following a family trip to Mexico that left only him suffering. The family got back from their vacation in March, but it's unclear if Kassis contracted the virus in Mexico or after the arrived back home to Sacramento.
Nobody else in the family showed any symptoms of the virus.
Despite most of his hospital stay feeling like a blur, Kassis said his first night in the hospital was unforgettable.
"That night that I thought I was gonna die. I remember that one vividly," Kassis said. "I just felt the power of the blessed virgin and my friends and family and I knew I didn't want to die. I held on."
Kassis' daughter, Amber Bispo, told ABC10 last week that her father's condition got substantially worse while in the hospital, and he wound up on a ventilator.
Because of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals across the country have had to limit the number of people coming in and out, oftentimes denying family members the chance to see their loved ones.
This was the case for Kassis. His family wasn't allowed to see while his condition got progressively worse.
At the hospital, without his family, Kassis said his nurses at Sutter Health were his support system.
"I can't say enough about those boys — the nurses." Kassis said. "[One nurse] said, 'Jim, I know you expect a lot. This is gonna be a long race and you can't think of yards or feet or even inches. You start by standing up.'"
Kassis said the journey has been hard but he believes staying active at his age helped him physically push through it. Kassis is an avid skier and holds a fifth degree Taekwondo black belt
"The odds I had going into those at my age were not good," Kassis said. "I think what saved me besides the support I have is that I was in pretty good shape."
When Kassis was allowed to go home 20 days later, he was greeted by a very familiar face outside the hospital— Debi, his wife of 38 years, who he wasn't able to see while in the hospital.
Kassis is on supplemental oxygen while recovering at home, and he's trying to move around as best as he can.
He said hopes once he's well, he can give back through his blood.
"It's worth a try," Kassis said. "Even if I only help one person. Why not? It isn't gonna take it out of me, and I hope people feel the same way. If nothing else we’ll fill the blood banks cause they need blood anyhow."
Despite it all, he says he's grateful and wants to provide hope to everyone worried.
"Don't give up," Kassis said. "Be prepared as you can be. Don't give up. Don't stop praying."
Follow the conversation on Facebook with Ananda Rochita.
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