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COVID-19 survivor gives thanks ‘to God and my family, who kept me going’

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Moises Diaz was strong and healthy, so when he got sick with COVID-19 in June, the debilitating weakness came as a shock.

“It was very hard to be sick. I didn’t have the strength to help my family,” said the 46-year-old heating and air conditioning technician, who came to the United States 14 years ago from El Salvador. “I was crying; the situation was really bad. You want to hug your family, but you can’t do anything. You have to be by yourself.”

Moises and his family live in Chantilly and met with a Catholic Herald reporter on a recent Sunday in the empty parish hall at St. John Neumann Church in Reston, where he and his wife, Edith Huezo, 38, were married three years ago. Their family of seven includes Edith’s four children from her previous marriage, Jennifer, 16; Luis, 14; Brian, 12; Emily, 10; and the couple’s 1-year-old son Jaden. Jennifer served as translator for the interview, assisted by Deacon Atanacio Sandoval of St. John Neumann, who works with the parish’s Spanish-speaking community.

Moises quarantined in one of their apartment’s two bedrooms after testing positive for the virus; nobody else in the family got sick, but he was very ill for four weeks.

“It’s not a joke, it’s serious,” said Moises, who grew weaker and weaker from not eating and not moving. “My skin was like an old person,” he said raising his arms to show skin hanging where his muscles used to be. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

He believes many people still aren’t taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously. “They think it’s just a game. Where we live, we see a lot of people behave very irresponsibly,” he said. His wife adds that she sees people in stores not wearing masks; she has to ask them to step back and not crowd her.

“There’s no need to be so close,” she tells them.

When her husband stopped working, she started taking all the overtime she could get at her job cleaning houses, so they wouldn’t fall behind on bills. Moises doesn’t get paid when he doesn’t work, and they have no health insurance.

“I felt bad that I had to go to work and leave him with the kids, but rent doesn’t wait,” said Edith, who came to the United States from El Salvador 21 years ago. “The kids said, ‘Mom, when are you going to stop working so much and give us a little time?’ ”

Baby Jaden missed her and his dad. The family described how he would toddle to the bedroom door and kiss it, knowing daddy was there but he wasn’t allowed to go inside.

Taking care of their stepdad fell mostly to Jennifer, who brought him soup and tried to get him to eat, even though he lost his sense of taste. “He was very pale and had no energy,” she said. “I got really scared and didn’t know what to do. I was scared after all the news about the corona(virus) and the lost lives because of it.”

Moises is eating again and regaining his strength. He said he doesn’t know what he would have done without his family. “People may die if there is nobody to care for them,” he said. “I give thanks to God and my family, who kept me going.” He also is grateful to his church community and to Deacon Atanacio, who kept calling to check on him and to assure him of the community’s prayers. “Without their prayers I wouldn’t have the strength to go on,” he said.

He is feeling much better and has returned to work, but he is worried there is a problem with his heart. “My heart hurts and beats fast,” he said, but doctors are expensive, and finances are still precarious after missing a month of work. He hopes to see a doctor soon, but for now, “I just sit down and calm myself before I get up again,” he said.

Moises still doesn’t know for sure how he caught COVID-19 because he was being so careful. But he thinks it may have happened one day at work when he took his mask off to eat lunch. When he finally returned to his job in July, he said, another worker “confessed to me that he came to work sick with corona(virus) and didn’t report it to the company.”

Deacon Atanacio said that Moises and his family never requested any food or rental assistance from the church, although other families have, because Edith still had her job. “They wanted to leave the help available for somebody else who needed it more,” he said.

Read the entire "Faces of COVID" series, here.





© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020