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LOS ANGELES (Dec. 31, 2020) -- Walter E. Gomez Saldana, 41, has been battling COVID-19 at Cedars-Sinai for almost a full month. He spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) fighting for his life and now, more than a week in a step-down floor as he continues to recover.
"I thought COVID-19 was a joke," said Gomez Saldana. "I didn’t think it could get me the way it has."
Gomez Saldana contracted COVID-19 after giving his best friend a ride home. His friend, who Gomez Saldana considered a brother to him, knowingly had the virus but wore a mask during the car ride home.
Two days later, Gomez Saldana became symptomatic. After two weeks of fighting the illness at home, he became so ill that his mother insisted he visit an urgent care clinic. Once there, nurses urged him to go to an emergency department.
"I don’t even know what happened the next three days," recalls Gomez Saldana.
In the time since Gomez Saldana was exposed and admitted to Cedars-Sinai, his best friend died from the highly contagious virus at a neighboring hospital.
"He knew everything about me," said Gomez Saldana. "We had dinner together once a week every week. He was more than a best friend; he was a brother to me."
For his fellow Angelenos, Gomez Saldana has a critical plea.
"This is serious," said Gomez Saldana. "Please stay home and keep your distance. I know we all miss our family and friends, but call them. Just stay home."
Read more in Discoveries magazine: On the Front Lines of COVID-19