Over the past couple of weeks I've gone through a little bit of an experience being the first person I know directly (yes, I actually know myself directly) to have contracted the Covid-19 virus. "Well, have you been tested?" is what I know you're saying out loud to your computer screen right now. I know this because EVERYone I've spoken to has asked me that question right off the bat. The answer is "NO!". Actually, "hell no!", good freaking LUCK getting to a hospital in NYC and securing one of the very few tests available right now. You'd have better luck finding a golden ticket in a Wonka bar. I've spoken to people since I got sick who said they called in to the health department in NYC to get tested and were grilled about their temperatures, if they'd been around someone with a confirmed case, etc. And then swiftly denied access to a test. So, if you were gullible enough to believe Trump when he said from his podium "anybody who wants a test can get a test" I've got news for you.
Anyways, the point of my writing this story is to share my experience in the off chance it could be found as helpful to any of you feeling scared or in limbo right now. I have literally had more phone calls in the last 7 days then I usually get in several months with countless acquaintances in the skate community reaching out with questions or concerns. I literally told ONE person outside of my immediate circle that I was fighting the disease and somehow the word spread like wildfire. I think the extreme reaction was because I was likely one of the first in our community to have contracted the virus. And people wanted to get confirmation that this thing was actually real. I can tell you, it is indeed real. And although it may be statistically less likely for younger people to die from the disease, that doesn't mean it's a pleasant experience. I battled it for roughly 13 days and it started off feeling like the flu, but after a week it shifted to a completely different set of symptoms that left me scared every night that I would have to throw in the towel and go to the hospital. Thank GOD I made it through without having to have that experience. But I figured I should share my story with those of you who may be interested or worried in the chance it could be helpful.
It all started for me around 3 weeks ago on March 10th. At that point I was literally having discussions with friends asking if anybody knew of anyone directly who had contracted it and nobody seemed to be able to confirm. It still felt like just a story, one of those countless things that happen on the nightly news but that never directly affect you or your friends. But somewhere around March 10th/11th I started to feel a tickle in my throat and, being a fatalist who always expects the worst is going to happen to me, I immediately became fearful I had been infected. But, (insert dramatic music here), I became especially stressed out because I had a flight scheduled the following day to do some filming in New Orleans and as if it wasn't already stressful enough to be flying during a global pandemic, I had this phantom sore throat plaguing my every thought. It wasn't until day 2 of my trip that I started to feel worse. But I'm HIGHLY allergic to oak tree pollen, of course, and New Orleans in early March is basically a blanket of yellow. Pollen covers cars, sidewalks and after a few minutes walking around the streets, you will soon be covered as well. So I was an absolute mess during the whole trip. A snotty, sneezing, sore throat having mess. It soon became difficult for me to tell if I was getting sick or just getting pummeled by pollen. So I hunkered down, like I have on countless filming trips around the world, and just tried my best to focus on filming and ignore how miserable I was. I barely talked during the whole 6 day trip as I had a screaming headache every day, my neck locked up so stiff it hurt to look any direction but straight ahead, I barely had any appetite and all of my old injuries radiated with an achey pain all day long. Finally the day came for my return flight. I had a blast in New Orleans but I was so miserable I just wanted to get home.
Upon returning to NYC on the 17th, most of NYC was already shut down. The TOA office was down to 3 employees and I was still trying to pretend like I just had the flu, wearing a mask in the office and being careful to keep my distance and not touch anything but my own computer. But by the 19th I started to experience a second wave from my sickness. My body soreness had dissipated, my sore throat had passed, sneezing had ceased, etc. But my overall energy level had plummeted, I was endlessly exhausted, I had a painfully dry cough and I had developed a pressure on my chest that felt like my lungs could only handle around 80% of their normal capacity. The next day, March 20th, I was down for the count. I spent the entirety of the next few days in bed. I made juices every day with tons of ginger, swiss chard, kale, beets, turmeric and carrot. I started each morning by swallowing a crushed garlic clove on an empty stomach. Vegetable soup at night and tons & tons of water all day long. My energy level remained at zero and my lungs got worse. At the height of it all they felt to be around 60% capacity. If I inhaled air to blow my nose it would send me into a coughing fit that was hard to stop. And the more I coughed the harder it was to breathe. Coughing was futile anyways, because it never would produce anything from my chest. No phlegm, no yellow gunk, just a painfully dry cough that eventually would have me gasping for air. I would get bursts of a fever that would cause my body to shiver uncontrollably. This usually happened at night for over a week straight, but sometimes it happened in the afternoon and i would go to sleep for an hour or so and it would dissipate. Another strange symptom that developed was a loss of taste and smell. My favorite foods began to taste like bland rice chips, even the most flavorful food items had no recognizable taste. And soon they started mentioning this on the news that Covid-19 patients were reporting a loss of taste. It seemed that all of my symptoms were matching that of the virus. Test or not, I'm convinced I was battling Coronavirus as I matched all symptoms and patterns of the disease. Even those that were quite subtle.
My step-mother was a nurse for 30 years and my step-father's girlfriend is a doctor. They both were tripping that I wouldn't go to the hospital. Their main fear was that my lung problem would develop into pneumonia. And this started to really worry me. I would wake up every morning thinking I was feeling better but when I'd stand up the coughing would start and I'd discover my lungs were feeling even worse. One day I read in a NY Times article that most bad cases of Covid-19 were causing their victims to be hospitalized between day 10-14 from first showing symptoms. I was now around day 12 and my lungs were the worst they had ever been, so I was in a mild panic that I was right in the window of the height of the disease. My girlfriend made me turmeric latte's every night and she also boiled water with Eucalyptis oil and had me hang my face over it and a towel draped over my head. I made ginger shots in the mornings before I made my juice and continued drinking tons of water. And then on day 13 I woke up in the morning and as I inhaled to blow my nose I noticed I could breathe much deeper than I'd been able to the full week before. It was the first sign I was improving. By day 14 I felt like my lungs were back to 80-85%. None of my other symptoms were showing themselves and my energy was coming back. It's now been 3 weeks since I first felt the symptoms and I'm feeling almost back to 100%. My body is still weak and gets fatigued more easily and I still have a cough that comes and goes. But my lungs feel nearly back to normal, no more head or body aches and no fever for a week now.
I feel very fortunate to have made it through this rather unscathed. And miraculously without passing it to my girlfriend or the skaters who were on the New Orleans trip. It's literally impossible for my girlfriend to not have contracted the virus considering our constant proximity to one another. But we noticed recent news confirming that up to 25% of cases are asymptomatic. So we have been acting as if Allyson also has the disease and being extremely careful for 2 weeks just in case she is one of those 25% who just shows no symptoms.
Now I am focusing my energy on trying to keep TOA afloat through this massive economic nightmare. That battle will apparently be MUCH longer and harder than my battle with the disease itself. And, as we all know, it's something that all skate shops, distributors, most brands and manufacturers will be struggling with for at least the next 6 months probably longer. But we also know you guys will all be struggling as well. So we're wishing everyone the best through this and hopefully we can all support each other and keep things from getting as bad as they could be if we didn't look out for one another.
Thanks for reading this story and feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments and I'll make sure to respond as quickly as possible.
Stay safe out there and all the best in health to you and your families.