Local News

'God is good': Gilbert Baez discharged from hospital after COVID-19 diagnosis

Posted September 1, 2021 5:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2021 5:25 p.m. EDT

Gilbert Baez, who has spent more than a week in the COVID-19 unit at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, has some good news to share.

"After nine days, I’m finally going home! God is good. So is that doggone vaccine," he said Thursday.

"What a blessing, what a battle," Baez said in a voice still hoarse.

He noted that he had lost about 20 pounds during the course of his illness.

WRAL's Fayetteville reporter thought he’d get to go home on Wednesday, but his oxygen levels at the time were hovering around 90%. Doctors say that number should be 95% or higher.

By Thursday afternoon, Baez said, he was able to breathe without oxygen. On Friday morning, he asked a nurse to play "Eye of the Tiger" as he walked across the room.

"My oxygen rate has been in the 90s of its own accord," he said. "I'm going to be dealing with this after I go home, but it sure is going to be good to sit in my own chair and watch my own TV and be with my wife."

Baez, who is fully vaccinated was never put on a ventilator. But he said his journey would bring a new perspective to his future reporting on COVID.

"I chose to get the vaccine because, even though I'm messed up right now, I think it could be worse," he said.

Doctors tell Baez that the vaccine helped his body fight the virus. He's also taken five doses of the antiviral drug Remdesivir during his stay at the hospital.

"I'm also diabetic," Baez said. "Everyone has their own pre-conditions. COVID-19 takes advantage of those things."

In a Facebook Live posted on Monday he said an X-ray shows his lungs are in great condition but he still gets a "hacking cough" when he moves around.

Baez said he and his wife, Doris, both tested positive for the virus days after his 66th birthday party. All 10 friends and family who attended the party were vaccinated, and half of the people there tested positive, he said.

Baez was originally planning on having a birthday party with more than 200 people at a club in Raleigh.

"All of a sudden, the numbers started going up, and the club owner said we need to cancel this," Baez said.

After coming down with bacterial pneumonia, Baez and his wife tried to recover at home. But his fever rose to 102 degrees, and he wasn't able to eat for a week after his positive test results.

"I stepped out of the shower, my wife was getting ready to take me [to the hospital] and the room was white," Baez said. "I really felt like I was going to die at that moment."

When he arrived to the hospital, doctors took X-rays and started him on antibiotics.

"Now sitting here, hearing the calls of my neighbors, hearing the codes of people who are not making it, hearing the stories from the nurses who watched patients take their last breath," Baez said, "really drives it home."

He said while in the hospital, he's been hearing stories he "would have never known otherwise."

His wife, also vaccinated, has since recovered from the virus.

Baez said he hopes that soon you'll be seeing his smiling face back on the TV.

"God is protecting me," Baez said. "I have blood on my door, I know that he has his hands wrapped around me. All of the prayers from this community, I am just overwhelmed by the support of the folks in our community."

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