HARLINGEN, Texas — 71-year-old Edwin Howell has seen a lot in his life time.
During the late 1960s, Howell served as a radio operator and truck driver during the Vietnam War for the U.S. Marines.
The horrifying experiences he dealt with during those years stuck with him for the rest of his life.
But nothing could prepare him for the battle he fought with COVID-19 in July and August 2020.
During the time he had the virus, Howell said his breathing was extremely limited and his lungs were operating at dangerously low levels.
“In Vietnam, I battled Malaria, Typhus, a severe flu,” Howell said. “But nothing compared to what I dealt with here.”
When Howell first fell ill to the virus, he called for an ambulance to pick him up, but was stunned at what the EMS workers told him.
“They said if I was taken to the hospital, I would sit there for a few hours and then forced to go home,” Howell revealed. “The only way I could get help is if my wife drove me to the ER.”
For nine days, Howell was admitted to the Exceptional Emergency Center in Harlingen and received treatment for COVID-19.
It was there that he received the help that saved his life.
“If it wasn’t for my wife, the exceptional workers at the ER, and God, I would not be here today.”Edwin Howell attributes three things to his defeat of COVID-19
Howell described the days he spent as an absolute nightmare.
“I consider myself extremely lucky to have survived.”
According to Howell, four or five people died from COVID-19 during the time he was admitted to the center, but he was able to withstand the worst conditions.
Howell was released from the emergency center this week and is returning to good health.
During his hospitalization, Howell lost more than 30 pounds, but he is happy that he is feeling better and his oxygen levels are returning to normal with the help of an oxygen concentrator.
Now that Howell is back at home, he is advising the public to take the virus seriously and take all precautions necessary, including staying at home at all times.
“You do not want what I just had,” assured Howell. “Wear gloves, wash your hands, and put your mask on. That’s the trick that’s gonna keep you from getting this stuff.”
Howell stresses that the virus can impact anyone.
“No matter if you’re 25 or 65 it can hit you.” “If you’re not in great shape, it can decimate you.”
The scenes Howell witnessed from the ER were reminiscent of the makeshift hospitals set up during his time in the Vietnam War. While Howell said the two scenarios are hard to compare, he did say there was some common ground between the two.
“I saw some pretty traumatic express imprinted on me for the rest of my life [in Vietnam], and now [COVID-19] is one of them,” explained Howell. “That’s why I’m trying to tell you younger guys… try not to experience it.”
Howell served as a U.S. Marine from 1968 to 1971. Upon returning from the war, Howell’s battalion was sent to police the 1971 May Day protests in Washington D.C.
Howell, originally from Virginia, met his wife in Houston in the early 1980s before moving down to the Rio Grande Valley where he made a living working as a locksmith.
The U.S. Marine is thankful to have beaten the virus and continues to live well in Harlingen.