I am a survivor. At the beginning of the year, COVID-19 snuck up on me, jumped me and tried to destroy me.
On Jan. 4, I felt great. On Jan. 5, I was miserable. And, on Jan. 10, I thought I was going to die.
I’m not sure how it tracked me down. For nearly a year, I tried hard to keep COVID-19 from making me sick.
I became a ghost to my friends and family. I worked from home as much as my job would allow. I learned to get used to wearing a mask whenever I was out in public. I rarely went outside at all — all in an effort to stay COVID free.
On Jan. 5, it hit me. It was the beginning of two weeks of hell for me.
I felt weak. My head was throbbing. And, I couldn’t breathe normally. Through my job, I was able to set up a COVID-19 test that day.
On the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 6, I felt worse. My lungs ached. My body ached. I still had a terrible headache. Because I had never felt like this before, I was confident that COVID-19 had finally caught me.
Thursday, I got a confirmation text message: “Positive, COVID-19 Virus Detected.”
Friday, Jan. 8, was bad. Saturday was worse. Each night, I was afraid to go to sleep because my blood-oxygen level kept falling below 90. The only way I could keep it above 92 was for me to repeatedly take deep breaths. I thought that, if I went to sleep, my level would drop, and I would not wake up.
This is part of a weeklong series marking a year since COVID-19 was first detected in Colorado. The state’s first confirmed cases were announced March 5, 2020.
>> READ THE REST OF THE SERIES
At 1 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10, my body ached so bad that I went upstairs, woke my wife up and asked her to take me to the hospital. I was burning up one minute, then freezing the next minute. My temperature was 106 degrees. My head was throbbing. It felt like somebody was stabbing my lungs. I was spitting up brown mucus.
Then, my entire body started cramping. I thought that my body was shutting down and going into an early stage of rigor mortis.
I got dressed, eased my way down to the floor and said what I thought was my final goodbye to my dogs. Then, my wife took me to the hospital. On the way there, I made peace with what I thought to be true — that my death was imminent. I kept thanking her and saying other parting things because I thought that my life was ending.
My wife told me to not give up. I lied and told her that I was strong. I wasn’t.
Because the hospital did not allow guests, I hobbled into the emergency room by myself. The staff checked me in and took me back to a room. The medical team checked my vital signs, put an IV port in my arm and hooked me up to some machines. They ran several tests on me.
In the meantime, I sat there hour after hour thinking about what a blessed life I have had, while at the same time looking at the door waiting for death to come in and take me away.
Sometimes I would beg God to keep me alive. Other times, I would curse God for ending my life this way.
Several hours later, the doctor came in and told me that my fever, blood pressure and blood-oxygen levels were all back to normal. She said that I could go home to recover.
Unlike more than half a million other Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19, I am a survivor. After about a month, my sense of smell and taste returned to me. My lungs are damaged. But, I’m healing.
I have talked with friends and family who think that COVID-19 is a hoax. I remind them that this virus doesn’t care what they think, how much melanin they have in their skin, or for whom they voted. It’s out here killing people.
It tried to kill me once. I’m living on the assumption that it will try again.
The best way I have found to defend myself thus far is the vaccine. As soon as I could, I got vaccinated, as medical experts advise even if you’ve had the disease.
COVID-19 does not fight fair. This thing doesn’t tell you it’s coming. It sneaks up on you. It jumps you. And, it destroys you from the inside out.
We all are in a battle with this virus, and the only armor that I have found thus far is this vaccine. The next time it shows up, I will at least, through this vaccine, have on some sort of armor before I fight it.
I highly recommend that others put on some armor as well.
Will Jones is the director of external communications for Denver Public Schools.
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