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Palomar Health
An exterior view of Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, CA. Palomar’s first coronavirus patient donated medical supplies to the hospital after recovering from the virus. Photo courtesy of Palomar Health
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San Marcos resident recovers from coronavirus, gives back to Palomar Health

ESCONDIDO – More and more hospitals are facing shortages of medical supplies as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in San Diego County, and across the country, continues to rise.

Paul Martinez, 56, of San Marcos, was one of those confirmed cases and recently treated at Palomar Medical Center as the hospital’s first diagnosed COVID-19 patient.

Martinez, who was born in Oceanside and grew up in San Marcos, manages a branch of Hub Construction Specialties.

Nearly a month ago, Martinez started to feel cold-like symptoms, which quickly turned into a cough so severe, he fainted at home.

“One minute I’m standing and coughing, and the next thing I know, my wife is above me, and I’m lying on the ground,” Martinez said. “At that point, we realized it was time to go to the emergency room.”

Martinez went to Palomar Medical Center where he discovered he had pneumonia. The hospital tested him for the virus, and he spent a few days in ICU.

A couple of days later, he found out that the tests came back positive.

With help from his wife, Martinez quarantined himself until his symptoms subsided, being careful to stay away from his other family members, including his elderly mother.

“It’s not something I would wish on anybody,” Martinez said. “I was really sick, sicker than I’ve ever been.”

After his recovery, his company donated 1,000 N95 masks to Palomar Medical Center as a symbol of their gratitude.

“I’m just thankful to the hospital staff for being so kind and courteous during a scary and difficult time when they themselves were also at risk,” Martinez said.

The gift was greatly appreciated by Palomar.

“We are using 20 times more N95 masks than we would use during the normal influenza season, and the cost has gone from an average of about 50 cents apiece to $3 to $6 apiece,” said Wayne Herron, vice president of philanthropy & chief philanthropy officer at Palomar Health Foundation. “So, the value of a gift like that is felt pretty powerfully.”

Palomar is just one of the hundreds of hospitals across the country that are racing to keep up with the surging demand.

Fortunately, they’ve got a little help from the community.

Home Depot, Harbor Freight and Viasat are just a few of the companies donating supplies to the hospital. Others, including Stone Brewing, Domino’s Pizza and Chick-fil-A, have donated food for Palomar’s employees.

“We even got an anonymous gift from angel donor in the community of $200,000, and we have no idea who sent it,” Herron said. “It’s all very heartening for me to witness.”

Herron said the gift of 1,000 masks by Paul Martinez and Hub Construction supply will indeed be powerfully felt.

Today, Martinez is fully recovered and is back at work. His family hasn’t shown any signs of the virus.

“Before this, I felt like I was untouchable because I never really get sick,” Martinez said. “Being the first one diagnosed at Palomar, it opened my eyes. I just want people to know that this can happen to anybody. Keep following the guidelines and stay at home.”