Not Only Surviving But Thriving

By: Fr. Jose Lucero, SDB
Community of San Luis Rey Church – Laredo, TX

I woke up with a cough and thought to myself upon opening my eyes, ‘hmm, where did this cough come from?” I immediately wondered if this was the famous covid “they” speak of.  But how could this be? I was wearing my mask everywhere and social distancing. I quickly decided I would not leave my room just in case it in fact is this virus. Around Mid-morning I called down to the office and mentioned to my secretary that I would not be available that day because I was “feeling sick”. This was my way of self-quarantining so that I would not infect anyone in the event that I am in fact covid positive.  Around 1pm I called the Health Department and mentioned that I have a “strange cough, could it be a symptom of covid, and should I go in to get tested?” I was encouraged to go in and get tested. The next day the results came in and it was sure to be positive. Darn it! What now? I immediately mentioned to all those needing to know this information that I was covid positive and I dismissed the staff to work from home so they would not be exposed. I then asked the rest of the house to get tested to which one other person also came out positive.  We quickly made living arrangements so that Fr. Tom and I would be the only two living in this now “covid unit” of a house and the others moved to Casa San Jose.

This cough quickly became more aggressive and then I began feeling body aches as well as lose my taste and my smell. Quickly I lost my appetite and could only eat one or two bites per meal. I began feeling weak and fatigued. I knew I had Tylenol in my medicine cabinet, so I began taking Tylenol for my symptoms which also included body aches and several other symptoms by about day 5. It helped to endure the pain I felt and the discomfort and allowed me bouts of sleep here and there. I pretty much was just doing the best I could at home in my room. I would call two Doctors here and there but they never came to see me. During this quarantine, Fr. Tom and I were blessed to have parishioners who made up a meal train bringing us meals each day and making sure we were taken care of. Fr. Tom was so good to bring me my meals up to my room, since I was too weak to walk downstairs. Fr. Tom did not have symptoms, thank God. After about week 3 of covid, my mom told me I have pneumonia and of course being stubborn I did not listen to her saying, “let me check with the doctor.” I proceeded to ask my Dr. If I should go get an X-ray to see I had pneumonia to which he replied, “no that is not necessary, I’ll bring you a nebulizer treatment and lets put you on oxygen to help your oxygen levels come up.” I trusted him, because he is the Doctor so, I continued to stay in my room the remainder of the month. He did bring me the concentrator and all that comes with it in order to provide me oxygen as my oxygen was leaning toward the low 80’s. I was using inhalers, and regular nebulizer treatments, yet nothing was able to stop this cough or bring up my oxygen levels and this evermore sickening feeling I was experiencing kept getting worse.

About day 25, one of my friends called me and said; “Fr. Jose my doctor is going to your house to see you, I’m worried about you.” I thought to myself; “wow, really, how nice.”  Low and behold, he did show up, Fr. Tom brought him to my room and as soon as he looked at me, he said; “man, you look terrible, you need to get to the hospital for a CT Scan and an X ray.” I quickly drove myself to the hospital which is about 5-7 minutes away from home, got an X-ray and a CT scan and discovered that I have severe bilateral pneumonia. “crappolies! Really?” I was admitted to the hospital the next day where I spent 4 days and was able to receive the proper care and treatment I needed which also included an infusion of blood plasma.  Upon receiving the plasma, I began feeling better and actually began having hope that this would end soon. Because I had been admitted to the hospital for 4 days, I qualified for the Red Roof Inn which is an incentive to stop the spread of the corona virus with the State of Texas, the City of Laredo and the Hospitals to act as a Care Facility for covid patients who need care but are not severe enough to remain in the hospital. I spent 10 days at the Red Roof Inn where I was cared for by so many wonderful Doctors, Nurses, EMT’s and Respiratory therapists who would assist me with the proper exercises I needed to regain my strength and begin working my lungs in hopes that they can regain their full strength (this will actually take months of recovery).

I finally returned home where I am recovering nicely, thanks be to God. Everyone has moved back into the house and we are nearly back to normal life.

During this whole time, I had a lot of time to reflect, pray and do what I can to be present to myself and to others, bringing my experience to the fore in hopes to help others who are also suffering from this dreaded virus. I feel this experience has helped me to empathize with those who are ill and afraid. I can also feel the pain of those who suffer from chronic isolation and depression. I never felt depressed, but I can see how a person who is isolated and alone can quickly become depressed.

If living a life with chronic kidney stones and gout (which I have not had in several years now) is not enough, and getting run over by a car last summer hasn’t kept me down, I highly doubt a measly virus will do the job! I keep thinking all these things keep happening as a way to “slow me down”, well now I have no choice. Weak lungs will not allow me to work and move at the quick pace I’ve worked at for years. Now I have no choice but to slow down. And slow down I will do, but it will not keep me down. Why? Because…

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Finally, I want to thank all of you who have prayed so much for me. I’ve heard it said that people heal quickly from illness and injuries when they are surrounded by love and care. I feel I have been truly blessed and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for caring for me, loving me and praying me back to health. YOU ALL are a big reason I am still alive. Thank you for your good thoughts, calls, letters, cards, and most of all, the love you poured out on me during this very difficult time.

Blessings and peace,
Fr. Jose Lucero, SDB