Don’t Go Through What I Went Through…

Don’t Go Through What I Went Through…

As he left the hospital in July 2021 during a Code Happy Celebration, you can hear Charles Estrada thanking ThedaCare team members, saying they saved his life.

“All the people who cared for me were just incredible,” he said. “I truly believe that I would not be here without them.”

The 57-year-old has been living in Berlin, Wisconsin for the past three years. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles. He said in that area, you needed to be tough, as there were dangers all around.

“When I was growing up, and throughout my life, I needed to worry about gangs, being mugged, and things like that,” he said. “I didn’t think I was in danger of the virus in a small town in Wisconsin. I was definitely wrong.”

One morning near the end of May 2021, Estrada woke up with a severe stomach ache. When he went to the hospital, he and other family members tested positive for COVID-19. He was taken to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton, and after that, it was a blur.

“I cannot remember very much of my time in the hospital,” he recalled. “The only thing that stands out to me is when the nurses were encouraging me to wake up, trying to get me to breathe on my own.”

Estrada would spend 49 days in the hospital, both in the ICU and on the COVID Unit. He was intubated for two weeks.

“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.”

Sharing his Story

Overcoming the odds, Estrada survived. Now, he has a long recovery ahead of him.

“I still need oxygen every day,” he said. “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.”

Looking back on the days and months leading up to when he contracted the virus, Estrada said he wished he would have taken more precautions.

“I was not vaccinated, not masking,” he said. “I was relatively healthy. I worked out. I just never thought this would happen to me.”

Estrada is one of many COVID-19 patients who want to share their story. He hopes others will hear about his experience, and make the decision to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Many of my family members have recently gotten the vaccine,” he said. “They saw what I went through, and didn’t want that to happen to them.”

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

“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.”

ThedaCare encourages all community members who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, do so. In addition to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, ThedaCare also encourages community members to adhere to masking recommendations from the CDC, stay home when you are feeling sick, get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and physically distance when you are with others outside of your household.

For more information about COVID-19, vaccines, testing, visitor restrictions and other important news and updates, please visit

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.