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Faces of COVID: Stark County father fights to reunite with children

In late October, 34-year-old Sam Ceretta thought he was tired from juggling two young kids and a busy job. Days later, he tested positive for COVID-19.

CLEVELAND — Coronavirus cases continue to surge throughout the nation and in the Buckeye state the situation is no different. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there are currently more than 5,100 COVID-19 patients in hospitals throughout the state.

Over the last nine months, trends indicate that the virus can affect anyone, no matter how old, how strong or how healthy. The virus had one 34-year-old man asking: Am I ever going to see my children again?

That man is Sam Ceretta, a 34-year-old Stark County man and father of two. Sam and his wife Andrea say family means the world to them. It is that same family bond that helped Sam get through the most difficult moment in his life – his battle with coronavirus.

Ceretta’s battle stretched days, weeks and today, his battle marks more than a month.

“Your mind can go to the worst place and for all I knew for how bad I was getting, I could potentially have seen my family for the last time and there was no goodbye to it. I was trying to think how can I see my kids one more time?”

Sam had those thoughts while he was sitting in a hospital bed not knowing the next step in his battle with the deadly virus. His journey with COVID-19 started on Halloween. Sam says at first he could not decipher exactly how he was feeling, after all, he has two young children and life tends to be pretty hectic.

“We have two kids and we have long days at work and maybe I thought, maybe I was just tired that day or that kind of thing,” said Sam.

However, the fatigue turned to soreness and then chills and a fever ensued. Sam tested positive for COVID-19 and quickly isolated away from his family. However, the Ceretta family says they had no idea what was about to happen. Sam woke up on Day 11 of his battle with coronavirus and he simply could not breathe. Andrea, a nurse, knew she had to get Sam to a hospital and quickly.

“His lips were blue and his eyes were blue,” said Andrea. “It’s awful. You hear stories of seeing these things in your loved one and all of the sudden I didn’t know what to do, you know what to do when it’s your patient.”

Sam was a patient who Andrea could not nurse back to health.

“Taking him there and having to leave him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and he called me and said why are you still there and I said I don’t know I just can’t leave you,” said Andrea. “When I got into my car, I just started crying. I was trying to hold it together for him but then I lost it.”

Sam’s battle in the hospital was rough, it included a fever that would not quit, shaking, oxygen, discussions of ventilators and a hospital transfer. However, COVID-19 is so rampant in Ohio that Sam says there was no place for him to be transferred. Somehow with family on his mind – he turned a corner. On day 18 of his battle with coronavirus, Sam was told he could return home to his wife and children.

“That was my entire focus when I was in the hospital obviously my wife too, being able to be dad for them for as long as I can be, it was good to see them and see their smiles,” said Sam.

Sam is currently on oxygen as he continues to recover at home and while he lost 20 pounds, he says he gained perspective.

“No matter what your age is you are rolling the dice if you get it, you have no idea how bad it could get, or how easy it’s going to be,” said Sam. “Obviously, I hope if anyone gets it that they don’t have to go through the stress physically and mentally that we went through as a family.”

A family, happy once again. A father embracing his littles – not questioning when he’ll see them again, because for now, home is where they’ll be.