FOX VALLEY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Calumet County, Fond du Lac County, Outagamie County, Winnebago County

‘Don’t go through what I went through’: COVID-19 survivor shares heart-wrenching story to encourage vaccinations


APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – After spending 49 days in the hospital uncertain if he would make it out alive and wishing he had taken the proper safety measures to protect himself against the virus that has already killed thousands of American’s; a local COVID-19 survivor is counting his blessings and using his story to inspire others to get vaccinated and not go through what he did.

Coronavirus survivor and Berlin resident, 57-year-old Charles Estrada, says that before falling ill, he was happily living life unvaccinated, not masking, and unaware of the consequences associated with those actions. “I was not vaccinated, not masking. I was relatively healthy. I worked out. I just never thought this would happen to me,” shared Charles.

But like so many others before him and many more after, Charles tested positive for COVID-19 in late May after waking up with severe stomach pains that sent him to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center in Appleton.

Charles would spend nearly two months in that hospital, both in the ICU and on the COVID Unit. He was intubated for two weeks. While most of his time spent in the hospital is said to be a blur, Charles says he’s able to recall a few of the heart-wrenching moments like the nurses encouraging him to wake up and breathe on his own, and his family telling him the severity of his condition.

“My family called to get updates from the doctors and nurses,” he said. “I remember my family telling me later that they did not think I was going to make it. That is how serious it was for me.”

Yet, although Charles’ future seemed grim during those 49 days, he somehow managed to beat the odds. Charles left the hospital in July, thanking the ThedaCare team members, who saved his life. “All the people who cared for me were just incredible. I truly believe that I would not be here without them,” said Charles.

But, while Charles may have been able to survive a brutal battle with COVID-19, the fight for him is still not over. “I still need oxygen every day. And I can barely walk to and from the kitchen. I know it will take a long time to feel like myself. I just feel lucky to be alive,” shared Charles.

With a long road to recovery ahead of him, Charles hopes one day he will feel like himself again.

Using his experience to spark change, Charles has decided to share his story to encourage others to get vaccinated and avoid going through what he did. “The number one thing I would tell people now – get vaccinated,” he said. “Don’t go through what I went through. If there is anything you can do to avoid the virus, do it.”

As of late August 2021, 54 percent of Wisconsinites have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the Fox Valley region, about 50 percent of the total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. That number includes Charles, who recently completed the vaccine series, and said he is proud of his choice.

For more information about COVID-19, vaccines, testing, visitor restrictions, visit

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