“Just do the right thing, it’s simple.”
Michael Rojales said the footage that emerged this week of the ‘Karens’ in Bunnings refusing to wear masks brought him to tears.
“Those people who have died ... there’s just no sympathy. We need to be caring for these people not ignoring what’s been happening to them,” he said.
Mr Rojales tested positive after travelling back to Melbourne from South Africa in March with his family as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip Australia.
He told Yahoo News Australia he believes he contracted it on the flight back and came down with mild symptoms while self-isolating so decided to get tested.
He then got the most “confronting” result of all. Positive.
After a few days, Mr Rojales’ symptoms began to worsen and his shortness of breath made him feel as though he was drowning.
“I can’t swim so I’ve almost drowned a number of times and I know that underwater struggle to breathe,” he told Yahoo News.
“You can’t breathe and you’re panicking to keep your head above water. You go under again. That’s how I felt.”
Mr Rojales called an ambulance and was rushed to hospital before being moved to Monash Medical Centre.
On March 29, he was placed in an induced coma he didn’t wake from for two weeks.
Wife prepares to say goodbye
While Mr Rojales was in a coma, doctors told his wife to prepare to say goodbye as his ventilator was doing 100 per cent of the work to keep him alive.
The Melbourne pastor could not breathe on his own until doctors rolled him onto his tummy and his breathing started to improve.
“My wife told me two weeks after I woke up [on April 12] when she visited me the doctor thought I was going to die and spoke to her and asked her to prepare to say goodbye,” he said.
He also discovered while he was in a coma his wife Rachel was in hospital after she experienced a heavy chest and difficulty breathing after too becoming infected.
Ms Rojales then delivered the devastating news to her husband that her mother had died after also contracting the virus.
“I was in coma and didn’t know – I thought she was joking,” Mr Rojales said.
“Then it dawned on me she wasn’t. It was hard to hear firstly because somebody died and secondly, I couldn’t be there for my family to grieve, and thirdly, it’s probably my fault because she probably got corona from my wife who probably got it from me.”
Ms Rojales said while she was in the hospital recovering from her own illness she FaceTimed her mother Gely Costanilla from her hospital bed during her last moments.
“I started saying random things to mum that we love her, people are praying for you, stay strong,” she said.
“Then I said, ‘let me pray for you mum’, and as soon as I said that the nurse said, ‘I think she’s passed away’.
“A friend told me my mum was in her last moments and instead of dying alone, a nurse was there holding her hand while she was speaking to someone she knows and loves. She closed her eyes to pray and opened them and was with God. That picture gives me comfort.”
Bunnings Karens ‘broke my heart’
Mr Rojales does not want people to be fearful of the coronavirus and says people instead should do the right thing.
“We have our privileged living in Australia but we also have responsibility and need to be careful for ourselves and our fellow Victorians.
“Because the coronavirus affects different people in different ways – you could be asymptomatic and think you don’t have it – you may still be able to transfer it to someone else and you might be transmitting it to somebody high risk.”
Mr Rojales said seeing footage of ‘Karens’ argue with Bunnings staff about why they would not wear a mask and of mask burnings “broke his heart”.
“That’s how I would describe it,” he said.
“It just felt really sad and I hope they don’t go near anyone who is high risk. That’s all I was thinking. You could be in contact with someone who is high risk and that could be fatal.”
Ms Rojales said they are still feeling the lingering affects of the coronavirus months after being discharged from hospital.
“This virus is real,” she said.
“I’m just really disappointed.”
Mr Rojales urged people to follow the standard public health advice – stay home if you’re feeling unwell or have symptoms, wear a mask, practise social distancing, wash your hands and get tested.
“It’s simple enough and we will protect ourselves and others,” he said.
“We don’t want people to be in fear, but just do the right thing. Do the right thing.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.