RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. (KTXL) — The coronavirus pandemic has made 2020 a difficult year for everyone but especially those who battled the virus firsthand.
Justin Wilhite is holding his family a little closer this Thanksgiving after a nine-month battle with the coronavirus. He said he’s grateful just to be alive.
He recalled what he said to his wife one night when he had difficulty breathing.
“I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t want to go to sleep. I don’t think I’m going to wake up,’” Wilhite said.
The 40-year-old from Rancho Cordova was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in February and has been in and out of the hospital ever since with lingering symptoms.
There was a time when he thought he might not be around for the holidays.
“There was a time when I honestly thought I wouldn’t be here. There were plenty of times when I thought I wouldn’t be here,” he told FOX40. “So, to be here today is really awesome.”
Though technically recovered from COVID-19, Wilhite said he’s one of the handful of survivors dealing with its aftermath. From constant joint pain to daily headaches, he said his body has never fully bounced back. He even gets winded each time he walks up and down stairs.
His emotional journey with the coronavirus was one that was felt by his entire family, including his 10-year-old son, Nolan.
“Just seeing him go through all this pain, I don’t want him to go through it anymore,” the boy said through tears.
“This doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone around you, especially those who love you,” Wilhite said.
But despite his ongoing struggle, Wilhite said he feels lucky to be out of the hospital and at home with those who matter most this holiday.
“This is OK. This is good. This is us,” Wilhite said. “We’re here. Not just Thanksgiving today but every day has been like a Thanksgiving for us.”
The Wilhites set up a nonprofit support group to help other COVID-19 survivors struggling with lingering symptoms.