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Arizona coronavirus patient contracted COVID-19 in a bar

Jimmy Flores says he didn't worry too much about coronavirus. When he suddenly became sick, he started fearing for his life.
/ Source: TODAY

Jimmy Flores, 30, says he became infected with the new coronavirus after going to an Arizona bar in June and had to be hospitalized when COVID-19 left him struggling to breathe.

The business owner, who lives in Tempe, is now recovering at home. He shared his story with TODAY.

"It’s really important to share the story, especially to my generation," Jimmy Flores said.Courtesy Jimmy Flores

I was the type of guy who didn’t really know much about COVID-19. I thought I was invincible, I thought that I wasn’t going to really get it and if I got it, I’d get it lightly. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.

I’m a very healthy person. I’m very active, I’m not obese and I don’t have any pre-existing conditions. I’m not a smoker.

When I became ill, it was just so scary. It was the worst experience I’ve ever had. It completely changed my outlook on the whole thing. Now, I’m an example.

The public health department in my county concluded that I most likely got it at a bar in Scottsdale where I went on Saturday, June 6. It was very, very crowded — more like a nightclub. Nobody was social distancing or wearing face coverings. There were about 50 of us at a table. It was tight and there were probably 500 people in this place, maybe more.

I didn’t have any apprehension about going to a bar or sharing drinks at that time. We were sharing shot glasses and cups, and having a good time. I was there for at least three or four hours.

I started having symptoms on Monday, two days after. I woke up in the middle of the night with 103 degree fever and chills. I knew something was wrong and I was tested for coronavirus on Tuesday. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be it, but in my mind I thought, this is obviously COVID. The result was positive.

I had a loss of smell and taste, I lost my appetite and I had abdominal pains. I was extremely fatigued.

On the sixth day, I started having problems with breathing. It began very small, but within 24 hours, it turned into barely breathing. I could only stay in one position in order to breathe properly — on my right side in bed. My oxygen levels were around 89%, which is extremely low, and I was just trying to survive.

That moment where I was in my bed trying to breathe was when I actually feared for my life. That was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. That’s what prompted me to go to the hospital.

I was hospitalized for eight days. I was on a breathing tube — not a ventilator, but an oxygen tube. I had COVID pneumonia. They put me on two antibiotics and I was taking anti-blood clotting medicine because COVID attacks your vascular system. Dexamethasone put me on a healing path. That was the best. I immediately felt better — it opened up my lungs and I was able to breathe.

Now I’m back home. I’m at 90%. I still have breathing issues and fatigue issues. I can barely walk upstairs five times a day. It’s crazy.

I don’t imagine myself going to a bar or a busy place any time soon. I’m a single 30-year-old guy so I want to enjoy myself, but I am not going back to that environment.

I’m not here to tell people what to do. I’m here to explain my story.

My message to others is: If you can be patient and just let the doctors catch up and just know that there are real people out there getting really sick. Be vigilant with your health, wear a mask — it’s only temporary. Think about yourself, your family, your community.

COVID-19 is a multi-layered beast: It’s not just the flu or the cold or a cough. It attacks you in multiple ways.

It’s really important to share the story, especially to my generation.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.