Credit: Corey Sipkin

Whoever started the rumor that African Americans could not get COVID-19 (coronavirus) is sadly mistaken. Well, here I am, a Black man, 68-years-old, in excellent physical condition with no underlying medical issues and COVID found me. The shapeshifting nature of this illness literally pounded my being, but thankfully, I am a survivor.

It was March, and I thought I had morphed into an allergy sufferer. My nose was buzzing, followed by brain fog. I had a hacking cough that made my lungs sizzle. I was also extremely lethargic, sleeping as much as 12 hours a day and still needing more! I had only a mild appetite, mostly living on soups and water. At night, these uncontrollable raging chills would vengefully course through my body, and in the morning, I’d wake up in a puddle of sweat. Since I did not own a thermometer, I never took my temp. Even though the virus had gotten its boots on in my state of New York, I still didn’t give any thought to the fact that I could actually have the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 sleuths have repeatedly stated how the virus had been spreading stealthily in the U.S., but when I contracted it, folks weren’t suited and booted! At the time, no one was wearing masks, gloves, and there were no social distancing mandates in place to guard against catching the virus. So I was completely vulnerable. I could have very well come into contact with a “silent spreader,” a person who tests positive and has zero symptoms for the entire course of the disease. I could have been in the presence of someone who was “pre-symptomatic,” where they have no symptoms at the time when they test positive but go on to develop symptoms later.

After nearly two weeks of voluntary sheltering going through what I thought was a bad cold, my lady friend Val, who was also not feeling well, suggested that we both get tested for the virus. Val’s symptoms somewhat mimicked mine; however, losing her sense of smell was a red flag that the virus might be the underlying cause of the misery we had been experiencing. She had read about the loss of smell and/or taste symptoms of the virus.

We drove to a N.Y.S. COVID-19 drive-through testing facility and subjected ourselves to the process. Val was still in the throes of the COVID’s ravages while my symptoms had subsided considerably. I had already undergone the roughest part of the illness by the time I was tested. The clinicians at the testing station suggested that even though my symptoms were not evident, I should get tested anyway because I had driven Val to their facility sans a mask.

Three days later, both Val and I had tested positive for COVID-19.

In all honesty, once I had learned my status and let the shock of it all settle a bit, I quickly turned into one of those virus hunters looking for a culprit. Did I catch the virus while shopping at a grocery store, or during a church service? Did I pick it up from the mail, a package, takeout? I pondered and pondered which activity posed the most significant risk? I soon realized all of my ponderings were merely an exercise in futility. Anyone could have given me the virus whether it was delivered as a cough, or sneeze, for the virus to spread it has to be somehow suspended in the air long enough to infect passersby.

At this point in time, post-COVID, I have only minor sniffles now and then. Val is also on the mend but her sense of smell is still absent. But listen, if this is all we have to deal with after having battled a virus that has been deemed a killer, then so be it. As hospitals struggle through the current surge of cases and poor survival odds and the potential for long-term complications force difficult conversations for many patients, families, and clinicians, Val and I are grateful to still be here!

COVID-19 sidelined me from my life momentarily, but who is complaining? I am a survivor and oh so thankful, so very, very thankful!