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Health Team

63-year-old COVID-19 survivor implores everyone to wear masks

Posted July 20, 2020 8:16 p.m. EDT

— Nabil Lafi will always remember this. The chain of cheering nurses. The hugs of his son, his two grandkids.

And yet, so much of the previous month had been scrubbed from memory.

"Once I took the test, I don't remember anything afterward," says Lafi.

63-year-old COVID-19 survivor implores everyone to wear masks

Lafi took a COVID-19 test after he was first admitted to UNC Rex Hospital at the end of March.

It appeared he had pneumonia. After four days, the hospital sent him home.

"When I got home, I got worse. I didn't eat or drink -- all that time, I don't remember," he said.

When he couldn't breathe, his family called the ambulance. Back to UNC Rex.

He went into cardiac arrest, a coma. He spent 16 days on a ventilator.

Lafi says he has no idea how he became infected.

"I was surprised. I was very careful, since I had health issues, kidney failure and diabetes," he added.

In mid-May, UNC Rex released him after a month-long stay, though he was still weak and couldn't speak.

"It took me probably two weeks before i regained my voice back."

A spokesman says UNC Health has discharged more than 1,100 COVID-19 patients into recovery since the pandemic began. Most have left quietly, but WRAL News has had the joy of covering several 'Code Rocky's.

"Code Rocky:" When a COVID survivor is sent home from UNC Rex as staff lines the hallway with a big hooray!

There was 59-year-old Geraldine Keith, who also spent a month at Rex.

Keith proclaimed, "I still got a lot of grandma-ing left to do!"

There was 54-year-old, Lisa Fernandez, who spent 55 days.

Now, Lafi is imploring everyone to wear a mask, to do their part.

"We've been too lazy to follow the rules. If we follow the rules, then the opening will come even quicker," said Lafi.

But it's the healthcare workers ... "A second chance at life. They didn't give up on me," says Lafi ... and this loud, loving moment that he'll always remember.

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