On March 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a statewide lockdown in New York in an effort to flatten the curve. Residents were mandated to remain at home and take protective measures to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
Bronx Native brand manager and BX Writers founder Josué Caceres worked on his shop and personal projects from the comfort of his home. Despite the mild setbacks, life for Caceres seemed perfectly fine; but things soon took an unexpected turn.
“It was the beginning of April… just a regular day,” Caceres tells Remezcla. “I woke up, I got on my computer. I was just writing and I started getting these crazy symptoms. I got a fever [and] I literally couldn’t breathe. It felt like a flu, times 100.”
Breathing is first nature, but it felt almost foreign to Caceres. He suddenly had to gasp for air after taking a few steps to his living room. His skin turned pale. He decided he had the flu and laid down in hopes that the discomfort would subside, but it didn’t.
“My brother’s looking at me like, ‘Yo, you look bad. Nah, I gotta call EMS,’” he says.
When Caceres was admitted to the hospital, he was exhausted and felt a strong urge to close his eyes. A few minutes later, everything turned black and Caceres slipped into a coma.
It seemed as if time stopped. However, life still continued outside his hospital as his friends grew concerned over his sudden disappearance from social media. Amaurys Grullon, Bronx Native founder and Caceres’ childhood friend, sensed something was off when Caceres wasn’t answering his messages.
The following night, Grullon had a dream about him. When Grullon woke up, his mother spoke to him. Like a sixth sense that only Latinx moms possessed, she asked Grullon how Caceres was. Later in the day, his girlfriend asked how he was. All the signs were lining up and when a family friend asked about Josué, Grullon realized something had happened.
Grullon got in touch with Caceres’ mother who informed him that Caceres had contracted the coronavirus and had been in a coma for several days.
“It really hit home. Grullon says. “Josué is a gentle soul. An intimate creative who as a writer pours his heart and soul into his craft. [He is] someone that’s really close to me, that means that much to me. It was scary.”
Eleven days later, on Easter, Josué Caceres rose. He got up to use the bathroom, convinced he’d only taken a nap. His muscles were stiff from lying in bed for nearly two weeks. As he attempted to walk, his body gave out. He fell sideways and hit his head on the floor, knocking him out cold.
When he regained consciousness, his doctor informed him that he was in a coma, which Caceres found difficult to process. Nevertheless, he was grateful to be alive and eager to go back home to his family. Grullon managed to get in contact with Caceres and the duo reunited, virtually.
“He told me very seriously ‘this is not something I would wish on anybody.’”Grullon says. “When he said that, I felt that.”
On April 16, Caceres was discharged from the hospital. He had fully recovered from the coronavirus. His homecoming was emotional, as he finally processed what had happened to him those last few days. He took a moment to reflect on this near-death experience and count his blessings.
“I just felt really grateful for everything,” he says. “Before this experience, I wasn’t as grateful, there were certain things that I would just complain about and when I got home I just remember telling my brother ‘don’t even worry about these things.’”
And, now he’s back. He shared his experience with his friends and received an overwhelming amount of love and support.
At home, he is currently working on his upcoming book “BX Writers Anthology Vol. 2” and managing Bronx Native’s online shop. Like many businesses during this time, Bronx Native has closed its physical doors and is in danger of being closed for good. Grullon and Caceres have set up a GoFundMe to help keep their shop alive.
Despite this, Caceres remains positive. If he can bounce back from a coma and COVID-19, anything is possible, he believes.
“Josué serves as a great example that even when you’re down, you gotta stand up,” Grullon says. “You gotta keep smiling, stay active and perceptive and have an optimistic mindset all the time.”