LOS LUNAS — A Los Lunas couple who recently contracted COVID-19 is warning others, “It’s more than just the flu — it’s much worse.”

Jamie and Sandra Goldberg have been recovering from the novel coronavirus for weeks, and are still experiencing the after effects of the symptoms.

Jamie, Valencia County’s probate judge and a local real estate agent, said they’re not sure how they contracted the virus, but believes he may have brought it home to his wife, Sandra, a fourth-grade teacher at Dennis Chavez Elementary School.

Submitted photo
Sandra and Jamie Goldberg tell their story of contracting and recovering from the novel coronavirus.

The couple is considered to have had minor symptoms, but for them, what they experienced didn’t feel minor at all. While the Goldbergs were able to deal with their illness from home, it wasn’t easy.

Even though the couple are healthy and don’t have any underlying medical conditions, they say COVID-19 did a number on them.

The worst symptom Sandra has had to deal with is the chest pain and, for a couple of nights, it was very hard to breathe.

“It was really painful,” said Sandra during a telephone interview with the News-Bulletin. “The chest pain burns severe. It’s more than just the flu — it’s much worse.”

For Jamie, the fatigue is what sidelined him the most.

“There was one day that I slept for about 20 hours,” Jamie said. “I could go out and run 10 miles without stopping on a regular day, and I don’t think I can even run a mile now.”

Thinking his allergies were acting up again on Aug. 5 or 6, Jamie began to have a runny nose and some drainage in his throat. But on Friday, Aug. 7, he had a hard workout at the gym and began feeling some muscle tightness, something that’s unusual for the exercise-loving judge.

“I rode my mountain bike in the foothills afterward and had some major muscle tightness, but figured I overworked myself,” he said. “Fast forward to the following Tuesday, I lost my sense of smell and taste. At that point, I knew it was more severe.”

He immediately got tested, and was told the next day he was positive for COVID-19. That day and for several days following, Jamie experienced severe fatigue. Sandra had began feeling ill on Monday, Aug. 10, and was also tested a few days later and given the same diagnosis.

“I knew I was positive; I had some rough days and nights,” Sandra said.

Her symptoms were similar to that of her husband’s but hers were worse. There were a couple of nights that Sandra’s chest pain got so bad she asked her husband to take her to the hospital.

While neither ever had a fever, they both had trouble breathing, tightness in their chest, a continuing dry cough and the loss of smell and taste.

“We can eat the hottest green chile and there’s no effect and no flavor,” Jamie said.

“I don’t have any underlying issues,” Sandra said. “Just before I got this, I had gone to my doctor just for a check up and to make sure I was healthy before I started back to school, and everything was normal.”

Throughout the pandemic and restrictions placed by the governor, the couple had been following the rules and being as careful as possible. They wear masks wherever they go, they’re constantly washing their hands, use hand sanitizer regularly and practice social distancing.

The Goldbergs have been to the grocery store and have eaten outdoors at a couple of restaurants, but for the most part, Sandra hadn’t been out of the house much.

“I really don’t go anywhere, and when it comes time to grocery shop, I send Jamie,” Sandra said. “I don’t want to go anywhere, and it’s just frustrating that we did everything right and we still got it.”

Jamie, on the other hand, continued to work as the county’s probate judge, showing a few houses as a real estate agent and went to the gym for an hour about two days a week, before his diagnosis.

“I hadn’t been in contact with a ton of people,” he said. “Even as probate judge, I’ve been making appointments and seeing people … but I have two Plexiglass screens up, I require them to wear a mask, I wear a mask and spray down after anyone leaves.

“Going back and thinking about it, I can’t figure out where I got it because I’m assuming I picked it up and gave it to my wife.”

The Goldbergs, who are no longer contagious, have been working with the New Mexico Department of Health and contact tracers, giving them locations where they’ve been and the people they had contact with.

“I just hope people are careful, and when they go out — when they need to — wear a mask, and wash your hands,” Sandra said. “And even though we did all that, we still got it.”

As Sandra prepares to go back to work, she’s still not sure if she’ll be well enough to even teach virtually. And though she’s not contagious anymore, she’s still concerned for her fellow teachers.

The couple is grateful they are feeling a little better — more Jamie than Sandra — but they are hopeful they’ll be able to help others after contracting COVID-19.

“I feel safe for a while because I know I have antibodies,” Jamie said. “Sandra and I are going to do the antibody tests and, as much as I hate needles, we’re going to see if we can donate plasma and help out the best way we can because it’s the right thing to do.”

Considered recovered by the New Mexico Department of Health as it’s been at least 10 days since symptoms appeared and never had a fever, the Goldbergs want people to understand that COVID-19 is not a joke, that it’s serious and it can effect anyone.

“We want to educate people and let them know this is a real thing,” Sandra said. “Don’t take it lightly.”

“Something of this nature, people need to know and understand that your actions have consequences,” Jamie said. “We had it and I’ve had friends who’ve had it. I’ve even had to handle a probate case for a family because someone passed away from it. It’s not a joke — it’s something that has to be taken seriously.”

While in quarantine and ill, the couple helped one another as best they could, and friends and family would drop off food and other items, such as essential oils, at their front door. They say the community has showed them a ton of support while giving them their well wishes.

“We’re blessed to have as many friends and family as we do,” Jamie said. “That’s the true working of a small community.

“We’ve had so many people bring over food, and I have to tell them it’s only me and my wife, and we can’t eat it all,” he said laughing. “The outpouring of support is priceless. It’s reassuring.”

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.