Coronavirus Pandemic: California man battling COVID-19 shares his experience -- 'I was terrified'

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On ABC7's live, interactive newscast "Getting Answers," we talk to experts every day at 3 p.m. about the novel coronavirus pandemic and get answers in real-time.

Wednesday was a little different because our expert was actually a real man who has experienced COVID-19 firsthand. He is recovering from it and answered questions about what it's like to fight the virus.

People are sharing their experiences with the virus in hopes of getting everybody to do everything possible to avoid getting it, like taking precautions and social distancing.

Richard Rifkin used to live in Berkeley but is now in Los Angeles. He operates the Jewish Community Center of Los Angeles and runs an architectural design company called SKSI Plans and Permits.

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It has been a painful, frightening few weeks for Rifkin but he is well enough to talk to us.

He overcame Stage 4 laryngeal cancer but considers his battle with novel coronavirus much more frightening.

"With stage 4 cancer, the doctors had a pretty good idea what we were dealing with. And the statistics were known. But with coronavirus, there's no solution, there's no cure and we're really just guessing what to do. So coronavirus is much scarier."

He detailed his day-by-day battle on social media.

Rifkin says he doesn't quite know how he got COVID-19, but was in contact with a lot of people while at his office and also travels a lot for work.

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He remembers on a Wednesday afternoon, 21 days ago, and he all of a sudden felt a massive fever and sweats coming on. "It was very quick," he said.

His fever was over 102 within a couple of hours. He says he knew something was wrong.

The next day, he went to a Los Angeles hospital for the first time. When he arrived at the hospital, the staff was very clear they were not testing anyone for COVID-19 and only the most severe people were being admitted to the hospital.

"So basically they said, we're pretty sure you have it. So go home and good luck."

After going home, Rifkin developed more symptoms.

He was having so much trouble breathing and his lungs hurt very badly.

Rifkin is married, and says his wife took care of him. The regimen he went on was 3,000 MG of Vitamin C, D, tumeric and Zinc -- which were suggested by someone close to him -- and lots of rest. He also would rely on his stomach to allow his lungs to expand more and bring oxygen into his body.

At that point, after going into the hospital a second time, the hospital said they weren't even going to give a prescription for hydroxychloroquin and Z-Pak unless he was in the ICU and holding on for his life. "I said, you're not giving me this medicine that everybody in the world is hearing about? I was terrified."

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"The fear that not only I have, but other people have, in just knowing that they can come within a few feet of me and potentially contract something that can kill them... that is a horrible thing to live with."

He was never admitted into the ICU but was eventually prescribed the hydroxychloroquin and Z-Pak, but had trouble filling the prescription because every pharmacy he called was on backorder for two months.

"I said 'You mean I can't get this stuff that can save my life?' That was correct."

Watch Rifkin's full interview to hear the rest of his story in the video above.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

VIDEO: Watch Rifkin's full interview, Q&A session below:




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