April 2020 Volume 16

My Encounter with COVID-19

Alton Brown
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I woke up on Tuesday morning with a mild sore throat.

Never giving it a serious second thought, I decided that maybe an early morning mix of running and sprints at the park fueled by the crisp northeastern morning air would help clear out the old winter pipes and provide me with much needed rejuvenation.

This was a ritual dating back to my years growing up as a youngster in Red Hills, St Andrew. Early morning runs to the JBC broadcast pole at the top of Cooper’s Hill, just in time to catch the Saturday morning sunrise illuminating a breathtaking view of the entire Kingston Harbor and St. Catherine Plains, always seemed to breathe new life in me back then. There was also the added bonus of wild raspberries and the occasional orange and tangerines from roadside orchards on the return trip.

Since migrating to America, Spring has always been synonymous with pollen triggered allergies and the start of the common cold season. I thought some freshly squeezed Florida oranges, berries or some lime, honey and a splash of Jamaican white rum brew could remedy this mild but persistent throat discomfort in a New York minute.

It was Tuesday March 24, the New York public schools had been closed for a week due to Covid-19, and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s live daily news conference was on CNN. There are 2,400 new cases and just about 13,000 have been screened with 125 fatalities mostly confined to a Westchester community about 20 miles northwest of community in Rosedale Queens.

By lunch time the sore throat was accompanied a slightly muted headache. My 9-year-old daughter, ignoring me, was in her room for the most part focused on her virtual classes, conference call and online games.

Stepping outside to again get some fresh air, I encountered my neighbor Kavan, with whom I took the opportunity joke about maintaining social distancing. Kavan is also mixing some special Jamaican brew, whether it’s some detox concoction or tan-pani-long, he is always trying to get me to try out his home brewed elixir.

Upon hearing me clear my throat, Kavan asked, “Are you sure you didn’t pick up the Corona virus?” To which I quickly retorted, “No sir, that’s not likely.” He insisted that I wait for him while he went inside his home. Upon his return, he handed me an 8oz Poland spring water bottle filled with his latest brew to help clear sinus and break up mucus. He informed me that this green semi viscous concoction consisted of garlic, thyme, rum, turmeric and honey. When I got back inside, I placed the brew on my counter and had no intention to try it unless my health took a turn for the worse.

By the end of the day, my sore throat went away and was replaced by a low-grade fever. Still nothing to be worried about. I had a slight headache but was confident that some Vicks Nyquil should do the trick. I did not sleep well that night but by the next morning, the fever was gone. I still had a slight headache, but since I hated taking medication and it was not intense, I ignored it.

That evening the fever returned, I felt like having some chicken soup, so I made some. It has been a while since I had a cold, so I figured I was due for one, and when I did get them, they usually last three days at most.

When I woke up the next morning, the fever disappeared, but I was still feeling a little off, along with a buildup of mucus. I decided now would be a good time to try out Kaven’s brew. If nothing, the garlic would help with breaking up my mucus, which has been triggering an occasional cough. It also helped that I realized that I was losing my sense of taste, so I was thinking it would make consuming the brew less painful. By Sunday evening, I lost my appetite and the low-grade fever returned. Ok this has gone on long enough now. This is well past my usual 3 days cold spell. At this point, there are about 3,000 new cases and 250 new deaths in New York.

All this time I’m still moving about at home, haven’t gone outside, still making dinner while observing social distancing and wearing my mask. However, I have not had a good night’s sleep in days and was getting concerned about the duration of this common cold. Besides, I was not going to bother my family doctor about a common cold when people are dropping dead from Corvid.

Ok, play time over, I thought to myself, time to nip this cold in the bud. On Sunday evening just before the onset of the fever, I drank a few cups of team, sipping water and Gatorade otherwise. I also I took a teaspoon of Kavan’s garlic brew. Before bed, I took Tylenol and wrapped myself up to “sweat it out”. By about 2am Monday morning I was awake, dripping in sweat and my head feeling like it was about to explode.

I kicked off my blanket and rushed to the bathroom to relieve myself, while there I felt like I was on fire, still sweating like a pig, with my head feeling like it is about to explode and the lights were suddenly getting dim. I sensed that I was dehydrated so I made a beeline from the bathroom to the kitchen. As soon as I stepped outside the bathroom door, the place went dark and I collapsed. The only thing I remember from that moment is my head hitting the ground with a loud thud! My head hit the wooden floor so hard, that the next day my tenants downstairs said they thought a car had collided with the house.

Moments later I began to regain consciousness, lying naked in the dark passageway leading to the kitchen wondering why my bed felt so hard like floorboard, or how did I fall off my bed. That has happened since I was a child. Then as I fluttered around on the floor feeling like fish that just escaped his bowl and landed on a floorboard, it began to dawn on me that I had collapsed and was conscious for a moment. I realized that I was still dripping wet and groggy. So I dragged myself to the kitchen and began to gulp water from the Brita pitcher when I began to regain full consciousness and strength. I immediately took my temperature and blood pressure, which returned 97.4 degrees and 90/50. I was awash with cold sweat, had to pinch myself and walk around my apartment to make sure that my corpse wasn’t lying around to convince myself I was still alive. I was too afraid to go to sleep for the rest of the night. So I stayed up, stayed hydrated and watched TV for the rest of the night.

The next morning the fever went but the mucus production persisted. I called the CDC to get tested, but wasn’t sure what that would buy me, in the end it was an exercise in futility since I knew of others in worse shape were not able to get tested. As scary as the morning of Monday March 30th was. It could not compare to the days to come. While some nights the fever went up to 103.7 degrees, and I had to get by on 2 hours sleep nightly, the constrained breathing were even scarier. As the mucus production increased so did the coughing and related headaches.

I relied on Tylenol per doctors’ orders for relief and prescribed cough meds to help suppress the cough and aid with sleep. Deep breaths became a luxury. I had to take short breaths to avoid the chest pains, coughing and headaches that accompanied any attempts at deep breathing. I became fully aware what it felt like suffering from pneumonia. I tried to drink as much lemon or ginger tea I could to help break up the mucus. I had abandoned Kavan brew out of fear that the garlic would lower my blood pressure to dangerous levels. In fact, on nights when I had a fever I avoided hot tea, and tried to sit up in bed, no covers, wearing only my boxers and tank tops. I found that the more of my body surface that is exposed, was the cooler my body became and lying on my back only made my fever worse.

Eventually the night fevers went away leaving me with the mucus triggered coughing, sometimes I cough so much I that could barely breathe or eat. However, once you are at this stage you know you are on the last stretch of the illness. It is 15 days later and I am 98% whole. I do not cough as much; I am still awaiting the CDC to provide me with a testing date since I submitted a request for testing via their website. Giving thanks that I am past the worse of this unconfirmed virus.

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