She wants her video to give hope to others whose loved ones are suffering from COVID-19.

By Christina Oehler
May 18, 2020
Advertisement

Christine Diaz is used to sharing her life on social media. The influencer and her girlfriend, Kirstie Pike, are the creators behind @onairplanemode_, an Instagram account highlighting the couple's world travels. But Christine didn't realize that her account would give her a platform to share a viral TikTok video of her dad's incredible recovery from COVID-19—and that she'd touch so many lives by doing so.

When states across the US first began instituting stay-at-home orders in March 2020, Christine and Kirstie decided to quarantine with Christine's parents in Clifton, New Jersey, to support them throughout the coming months. Christine's mom has hypertension, so she was especially worried about her when she learned how preexisting conditions can put a person at a higher risk of severe complications from the virus. She never thought that her dad Jesus, a 54-year-old who works out daily and has no preexisting medical conditions, would be the one to get the virus.

Credit: Christine Diaz

On March 8, Jesus started showing symptoms similar to the common cold, including a headache and persistent cough. Christine took her father to the doctor the next day where he was tested for the flu, but doctors sent him home and told him he likely just had a cold. A few days later, on March 12, Jesus developed a high fever, and went to a COVID-19 testing site, but was turned away because he wasn't showing all three symptoms of the virus. Over the next few days, his symptoms worsened. He couldn't get out of bed and completely lost his appetite. Christine and her mother took Jesus back to the COVID-19 testing site on March 23, after he was struggling to breathe. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was taken to the hospital the next day.

As soon as her father got to the hospital, he was intubated and put into a medically-induced coma. To make matters worse, the day before Jesus was placed in a coma, Christine's grandmother died from COVID-19.

Credit: Christine Diaz

"He was without a ventilator for a day because there weren’t any available and the doctors really thought this was turning for the worst," Christine tells Health, adding that the hospital had a "no visitors" policy in place for patients. "We had to leave him at the hospital, alone. This was the most helpless I’ve ever felt."

For weeks, the family went without seeing Jesus in person and were only able to see him through FaceTime calls with his nurse.

"Every time the phone rang, my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. I was scared for more bad news," says Christine. "Honestly, my mom has shown me how strong she is throughout this time. She called the hospital as many times a day as she could to get an update. The doctor just kept saying that there were no signs of improvement and to prepare ourselves."

After 21 days in a coma, her father's nurse called the family to tell them that he had started to breathe on his own. Two days later, he was extubated and awake for the first time in weeks. In late April, Jesus was finally able to return home to his family where he could recover in the comfort of his own home, after a 23-day long coma. Initially, he was unable to walk on his own, but through plenty of therapy and help from his family, he's started to show signs of improvement.

"He was still in very fragile condition but we made the decision to have him get physical therapy and treatment at home instead of sending him to a rehab facility," says Christine. "We felt that being home would give him more strength to recover faster and so far, he is doing amazing!"

Credit: Christine Diaz

Christine decided that her dad's story was just too incredible not to share. She created an emotional collage of photos and videos and shared them on TikTok for her family and friends to see Jesus's recovery. While she and her girlfriend have thousands of followers on TikTok, they had no idea how much this video would take off—the clip received over 150,000 likes and thousands of comments.

"It was really hard for me to to share what was happening and it was heart-wrenching to talk about it every day when someone asked," says Christine. "We decided to put the TikTok video together to give the hopeless hope, to share my dad's miracle story, and show him all that he went through and how strong he is. We hoped that by sharing our story we could help families every where to understand the severity of the virus, and to hopefully save other families from going through the same thing."

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter