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MAD DADS president VJ Smith reflects on COVID-19 diagnosis, recovery

"I'm just really thankful that I got another opportunity because so many people didn't," said VJ Smith.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — On Oct. 8, from Abbott Northwestern Hospital, VJ Smith went on Facebook Live to talk about his COVID-19 diagnosis.

"This is a very terrible virus and it's killing our people and we have to wake up. We have to protect ourselves and we have to look out for ourselves," said Smith, in the Facebook video. 

Even from his hospital bed, Smith was trying to help the community — this time against COVID-19. 

Smith is the national president and founder/president of the Minneapolis chapter of MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder).

Smith, who is now out of the hospital, said he started experiencing symptoms about a month ago. 

Credit: VJ Smith
VJ Smith spent five days at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

"I just wasn't feeling well. My stomach, you know you have that feeling of like a flu or something," Smith recalled.

Twice, Smith went to the hospital and was treated before being sent home. Smith went back a third time and ended up staying for five days, diagnosed with double pneumonia and COVID-19. 

RELATED: Member says Minneapolis MAD DADS founder battling COVID-19, pneumonia

Smith said he experienced breathing problems, diarrhea, loss of taste and weakness. 

"It was up until they took the oxygen off of me, I realized that I got a chance," Smith said. "I was just thanking God that I didn't die."

Smith is now taking it easy at home. During our interview, he was surrounded by stuffed animals that loved ones had sent to his hospital room. 

Even now, a month after his first symptoms appeared, Smith said he feels he's about 75% recovered. 

Credit: VJ Smith
While at the hospital, loved ones sent VJ Smith stuffed animals.

"I really want to be at 100%. But COVID, this virus when it hits you and it knocks you down as hard as it knocked me down, not there," Smith said. 

Smith is used to being out in the community from morning to night helping make neighborhoods safer. But he said for now, he's scaling back his attendance at rallies, vigils and other events. 

"I'm 65 years old. I don't want to take that chance. I want to live. I got a chance at life and I want to live it," Smith said. "But I'm really going to be on a campaign to keep people masked up. I tell everybody, 'Put your masks on now. You're around me, you put your mask on.'" 

Smith added, "I'm just really thankful that I got another opportunity because so many people didn't." 

RELATED: Top Trump aide: 'We're not going to control the pandemic'

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