I Am Ten Days Into a Battle with COVID-19 and It’s Kicking My Butt
I need to preface this entire story with this- I NEVER get sick. In fact, earlier this week, Brent Gardner, who I have worked with for 23 years, said, "I've never even heard you cough." Well, he's now heard that and then some.
I have been cheating COVID-19 since Kevin and I were in New York City last March. We flew in on Tuesday, March 10th and, as the city was being ravaged with infection and consequential shutdowns, we jumped ship and escaped on Friday morning, March 13th. Somehow, we didn't get it then and we know, now, that we were literally surrounded and plagued by it.
Honestly, I have been masked up since. We were at "viral" ground zero then and knew exactly how potent this virus was, so we have remained determined to avoid it. I didn't think I was going to get it, because I was doing everything in my power to make sure I didn't. But the harsh reality is what I have always known. It doesn't require much window of opportunity for a virus to break through a barrier. For me, that barrier was recently broken and I likely won't ever know how or precisely when.
On Monday, December 28th, I wrapped up the morning show at WBKR studios and then headed to the Owensboro Museum of Science and History. I was due there at Noon to film segments for the virtual Noon Year's Eve program, which was going to air on social media on NYE. I met my friends Chad Gesser (Prof G Entertainment) and Kathy Olson (Executive Director for the Museum) there and for the next three and half hours ran around the facility making hilarious and educational videos. I thought it was chilly in the museum, which is an odd sensation for me to have. I mean, I typically wear shorts when it's 30 outside. When I got home around 3:45 that afternoon, I explained to Kevin that I was "really cold" and I was going to sit under one of our new heated throws until I got warm. After about an hour, I realized I wasn't getting warm . . . at all. Oh, and I wasn't cold. I had cold chills and that's an entirely different ballgame. Those chills quickly turned into muscle aches. By 6pm, I knew it was possible I was in the early throws of COVID.
By Tuesday morning, I was getting tested at Deaconess Clinic Express. By then, all the tell-tale symptoms had surfaced. In addition to chills and severe muscle aches, I had a raging migraine, a brutally, dry, hacking cough and a strange taste in my mouth. A lot of COVID patients say they completely lose their sense of taste and smell. I never did. But all I could taste was something akin to metal. I described the sensation to a friend that my mouth tasted like I had been chewing aluminum. It was absolutely disgusting (and that sensation hasn't entirely gone away).
Those symptoms continued and were accompanied by insomnia. At one point, I was awake for 40 consecutive hours. There was literally no way to get comfortable. However, early Thursday morning, around 2am New Year's Eve, I managed to fall asleep for about an hour on the couch downstairs. When I woke up an hour later, I suffered the absolute worst symptoms of my personal COVID battle. It was unlike anything I had heard described and unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It was agonizing, brutal and nearly unbearable.
When I woke from that brief nap, I woke up in a river of sweat. Apparently, I had been struck by a fever, which broke with a vengeance. I woke up completely soaked and had to immediately remove my clothes. But worse was the sensation I felt in my torso and back. It's hard to describe, but let me see if I can paint the picture for you accurately.
I felt like someone had taken acupuncture needles and punched them into every centimeter of my chest and back. Then, that person would randomly hit those needles with a hammer sending sharp pains through every inch of my skin. There was so much heightened sensitivity in my nerve endings, that it literally hurt to wear clothing. I was still having chills, so I put on a hoodie. I had to rip it off immediately because the fabric felt like it was "burning" my skin. I couldn't lean back against the couch because I felt like someone was jabbing a dagger into my back at the point of contact. I literally couldn't move. Virtually any kind of contact with my skin was brutally uncomfortable. I have often heard shingles patients talk about the pain they feel when they get outbreaks. What they describe is exactly what I was experiencing. Except, I don't have shingles. By the time New Year's Eve night rolled around, I was sitting frozen, upright, on the couch, crying- for hours. I literally could not move. That sensation had spread from my torso and back through the rest of my body. It was like I was a burn victim, except I had no visible burns. Though, it finally started to subside the following day, that sensation stayed with me for all of New Year's Day and some the following Saturday. Luckily, that sensation is completely gone. For me, without question, it was the most trying tribulation of my COVID infection.
Other symptoms remain, however. COVID-19 fatigue is real. I have to routinely take naps and I have absolutely no stamina to speak of. Luckily, my migraine subsided after 48 hours, though it took an unexpected spell of vomiting to break it. My cough remains ferocious. I had a coughing fit last night when I took the dogs outside and I could literally hear the echo of my coughs slapping off the sides of my neighbors' houses. And, yesterday, I randomly broke out into a rash across my chest that is still with me today.
Look, I have shared this with several friends and it's the truth. I am really good shape. I play tennis, work out and take care of myself. But COVID-19 has absolutely kicked my ass. That may be a crass way to say it, but that's how I have to say it. If I wasn't in the shape I am in, I am thoroughly convinced that I would have been hospitalized last week when I was at the height of my symptoms. It was nearly unbearable and that's coming from a guy who has a high tolerance for pain and discomfort. Remember, I'm the guy who was doing live updates from the ER when I had kidney stones and later went cliff diving in Bermuda when I had a stent in my penis following surgery. I don't mind discomfort and I don't mind pain. But I minded every single minute of this. For whatever reason, my cells were susceptible to the harshest effects of COVID-19 and I am just glad I am finally getting somewhat better so I can talk about it and share it.
Here's what I have learned. There's absolutely no way to guess how your body will react to COVID-19. I know folks who got it and sailed right through it. I know people who have contracted it and died. And I know a bunch of people somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure where my experience falls on the continuum, but I know this. The last ten days have been brutal and, as you can tell from the photo above, I am showing the wear and tear of the virus. It's not a freaking hoax. It's not the flu. If you're one of the folks that's been running around saying that, stop it. Your refusal to acknowledge the severity of the virus is contributing to the lethality of it. The truth? It's a novel coronavirus that shows no rhyme or reason in who it attacks and what it does to them. It's a beast and, luckily, I am going to defeat it. But my heart goes out to all those people who can't and won't.