By Dillon Thomas

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – In his first interview since surviving COVID-19, the man deemed one of Colorado’s sickest patients is sharing his story of survival. Ernesto Castro, 35, spent more than six days on a ventilator and in a medically-induced coma before being released from Medical Center of the Rockies.

“Everything happened so fast,” Castro told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Ernesto Castro (credit: Castro family)

Castro, a resident of Greeley, said he first thought his asthma was acting up in March. However, after experiencing a fever and runny nose, he decided to be checked by a doctor. Soon after being checked, he was rushed to UCHealth’s Medical Center of the Rockies to be treated.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God. What is next, am I going to die?’” Castro said.

Before being transported to Loveland via ambulance, Castro was able to say goodbye to his girlfriend, but not his children.

“I hugged my girlfriend. I said, ‘I love you,’” Castro said. “I immediately just broke down. I started thinking the worst.”

(credit: Castro family)

Castro’s symptoms quickly grew in significance. Doctors told him his heart was working too hard, while his lunges were not working enough. Castro said he was sitting in the hospital, unable to have visitors, when doctors told him he would need to be sedated and placed on a ventilator.

“I was wanting to say goodbye to everybody. I was thinking, maybe I am not going to wake up from this,” Castro said. “I couldn’t speak with my girlfriend. I couldn’t speak with my kids. I couldn’t speak with anybody.”

Castro was able to give his girlfriend’s number to the hospital, and staff kept her updated on his status routinely during his six days under sedation. With tears in his eyes, Castro said his mother was so worried that she considered sleeping in the parking lot of the hospital during his stay.

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However, after nearly a week, Castro was brought out of sedation, though still on a ventilator. Soon after, nurses prepared him to be discharged of his COVID-19 diagnosis.

“If it wasn’t for my faith, my kids, my family and especially UCHealth and all their staff, I don’t think I would be here today,” Castro said. “Each one of them gave me such a wonderful experience. Some of them would pray with me, or just talk to me.”

As Castro was wheeled to the exit of the hospital, wearing a protective face mask, nurses and other staff applauded him for his recovery.

(credit: Castro family)

“(Staff) dubbed (me their) miracle patient,” Castro said.

By sharing his story, Castro hoped those fighting the virus would find encouragement to keep fighting for their lives, while showing medical staff how important their work is. He also hoped the story would encourage people to stay home, which could save someone else the stress he experienced.

“God works through all these health care workers,” Castro said. “As many deaths as there are, there are a lot more recoveries. I thought to myself, ‘Thank you, Lord. Thank you.’ I cried, and I cried the whole way home.”

Just days after Castro was released from the hospital he celebrated his 35th birthday with his girlfriend, son and young daughter by his side.

Dillon Thomas