“I was scared like a baby:” Florida Affiliate Owners Experience COVID-19 Firsthand

April 14, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Gabriel Fernandez
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Gabriel Fernandez calls his family’s recent battle with COVID-19 “one of the roughest times we have had as a family.”

  • “It was real fear. I tell people I was scared like a baby. It was really really hard,” said Fernandez, who owns Forever Young CrossFit in Orlando, Fla. with his wife Karol Costa.

Gabriel, 33, and Karol, 32, and their two-and-a-half-year-old son Martin Fernandez, all became ill and tested positive for the novel coronavirus in March. The illness took its toll physically, but also emotionally, Gabriel said.

It was so overwhelming and scary that when their friends and family reached out, they couldn’t even get themselves to reply, he explained.

  • “Emotionally, it just drained us. We felt bad but we weren’t able to talk to anybody,” he said.
  • “We just needed to step away (from loved ones) because it was a really emotional time.”
Photo Credit: Gabriel Fernandez

In an Instagram post two weeks ago, Karol wrote:

  • “I am sorry I haven’t posted all the healthy meals my child is eating during social distancing, or I haven’t posted emotional quotes especially during this tough time…The COVID-19 has taken my energy. Not only my physical energy, but mostly my emotional energy. I sometimes feel like the virus (has) brought (out) a different person inside me, the opposite of the person I know — someone vulnerable, pessimistic, anxious and depressed.”

It was such a stressful experience for the family that Gabriel lost 16 pounds in just three weeks.

Same Same, But Different

Through their sickness, Gabriel, Karol and Martin all experienced different symptoms.

Martin had a fever every single night for two weeks, and he lost his appetite and had less energy than usual. Gabriel, too, suffered from a fever and experienced utter exhaustion.

Karol experienced it the worst. Her symptoms included a sore throat and a headache that lasted for four days. Shortly after that, it became difficult for her to breathe.

  • “She almost fainted and her skin turned a blue-ish color,” Gabriel said.

What They Don’t Tell You Before You Get Sick

One of the hardest parts of the experience, Gabriel said, was how doctors weren’t even able to offer useful advice, let alone emotional comfort or support.

  • “Doctors would call and they weren’t even looking to help us. They basically just wanted to collect data to find out what was going on. There’s so much they still don’t know, so they’re just looking to gather information.”
  • “You wait for them to call because you’re scared, but they have no answers. They would just tell us to rest and stay in bed and if you feel bad, take a Tylenol. I was like, ‘What?’”
Photo Credit: Gabriel Fernandez

Symptom-Free and Eager to Share their Story

A month-and-a-half later, Gabriel has been symptom-free for 10 days, and Martin for five. Karol is still having some problems breathing, but they feel like they’re mostly out of the woods, Gabriel said.

As the fear and stress about his family’s health has subsided, Gabriel said he thinks it’s important to share his story.

  • “Now that we’re finally feeling better, I want to share it with people because I don’t want others to go through what we do.”
Photo Credit: Gabriel Fernandez

Gabriel’s Message

Even fitness can’t protect you from the virus.

  • “Stay at home,” he urges.

And although he’s currently dealing with the stress of his gym’s financial future like the vast majority of affiliates around the world, Gabriel remains hopeful and positive about the future.

  • “We need to look on the bright side. We need to find new ways to do our job to show our community we’re here for them.”
  • “This is a stressful time for everyone, but now is the time to learn and think and be creative to find new ways to help our community, because they will help us when we come back.”

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