Austin man who survived COVID-19 shares story in hopes of helping others

Exactly one month ago, Ryan Rafols, founder and CEO of Newchip had a get together with his team, on what would have been the first day of SXSW. Three to five days later, Rafols says they all started to feel sick. 

“My first symptom … I was actually coming up the stairs and it felt kind of, I was achy and I was just out of breath.” Rafols said. 

The 29-year-old says he soon realized he wasn’t hungry, and couldn’t taste anything 


“I wasn’t hungry at all, for days.” he explained. 

From there, his symptoms progressed. He went to an area hospital to get tested, but was denied -- despite having pre-existing heart trouble, and his team having attended a conference with investors from COVID-19 hotspots. Rafols says he was supposed to be in Wuhan for work in January, but cancelled the trip. “I would have been stuck.” he said. 

Rafols was sent home from the hospital, where he says things got better, then worse.

“I call it round two.” he said. “The first round (of illness) I thought was really great, I didn’t really make a big deal out of it. This is where people are saying ‘oh I was sick but wasn’t like crazy sick,’ and then you start feeling better right? Then like a week later I got really sick.”  


Rafols says he soon started having chest pain. He says the pain was not a COVID-19 symptom, but happened because his heart was “weak” from the illness. He was dizzy, “I was delirious” he said, and his fever peaked, around 106.

About a week after his first hospital visit, he made a second trip and was admitted for a day -- where he tested positive for COVID-19.  Rafols says he only spent one day in the hospital, because he was told it would be best for his health to go home if possible. 

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“High fevers on and off, just kind of in and out of it, it was like swallowing razor blades.” he explained.  “It was really hard, breathing was difficult. I felt it better to sleep [at] an incline so laying down completely was like not healthy, I had issues waking up, I couldn’t breathe.”  

Rafols says he has felt better for about a week now. He recently went on a 15 mile stationary bike ride in his garage “I haven’t done that in three years!” he laughed. It is part of a new lifestyle he adopted, after a wake up call, he says COVID-19 gave him.

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“This whole ordeal for me has been a crisis of health that has led to me becoming a more healthy person. It finally shook me into tracking my calories, eating healthy,  exercising again.  Everyone else (from Newchip) just got slightly sick, and I got really sick because I haven’t taken care of myself over the last couple years and I need to do that.” 

For anyone worried about the virus he says “boost your immune system as much as you can, get as healthy as fast as you can.” 

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