JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I have COVID-19.
It’s as simple as that. But it’s still complicated.
And it’s hard to write.
I’m not unique or special. I join more than 4 million people across our country. PEOPLE. Not numbers. People. I feel for all of them. And their families. It’s not a pleasant process. For some, it’s worse than others. More than 151,000 Americans have died. I can’t imagine their final moments; the pain their families endured not being by their side.
The past several days have been hard. For the past decade, nothing has stopped me. I’ve had sicknesses. I’ve had injuries. I’ve suffered loss. I’ve gotten back up and kept moving. This was different. Out of the blue, for lack of better words, I felt like I got hit with a ton of bricks. During the quarantine, I’ve been healthy. I’ve eaten well, exercised often, kept my circle small. I had just taken time off, hiking several miles a day.
It’s the sickest I’ve been in my adult life. Fever, body aches, fatigue, weakness trouble breathing, cough. Then stomach issues and sleepless nights. I’ll spare you my complaints. Is my case mild? Probably? But this virus isn’t one size fits all. And your health can deteriorate quickly. There’s no set timeline with when you’ll experience certain symptoms and when you’ll get better.
The coronavirus has tried to dominate my body. When I think I’m getting better, I regress. I get up and move around. I get hit with a tight chest and coughing. I have trouble breathing. One night, it was especially bad. I questioned if I should go to the hospital. I called my parents, my brother and my friend who is an ER nurse. I didn’t go. I don’t want to take up a bed or use a doctor’s or nurse’s time when there are people who certainly need it more than me. That wouldn’t be fair. But the thought crossed my mind.
It’s real. People may say the numbers are still small and the virus isn’t that bad. That’s their right to feel that way. It’s very different when it gets you or someone you love.
While the virus has not been fun, the symptoms aren’t the worst part of the equation. The most frightening? Worrying that I unknowingly exposed someone else. That I could help this nasty virus spread and prey on others. That I could have innocently caused an outbreak among my family, friends or colleagues.
I spent time with my parents shortly before I got sick. That was my biggest fear. To this day, I bug them incessantly to make sure they don’t have any symptoms. The anxiety has been intense. I couldn’t imagine having them sick and possibly being the cause.
They’ve been amazing, supporting me however they can. They’ve dropped off food and Facetimed me to check on me. They’ve given me words of support. Thank the Lord, they’ve been healthy.
A handful of my friends have been wonderful as well. Some really stand out as angels. I can’t say thank you enough to those who felt just texting me ‘get well soon’ wasn’t enough. To those who dropped off care packages and food. To those who called me, and if I didn’t answer, called me again. A few sat outside my window and waved. We used the phone to communicate while seeing each other through the safety of the glass. That meant the world. And it was medicine. The soup, the vitamins, the cards: priceless. It’s taught me a lot about the quality of friends, not quantity. And it’s given me motivation to be a better friend in the future. It’s easy to send ‘thoughts and prayers.’ Actions speak louder than words. From now on, I’ll be intentional and invested in others going through tough times. I know others aren’t as fortunate to have the support I did. I want to find them and lift them up.
When I found out I was exposed, I immediately cut myself off from EVERYONE! I was leaving the office heading to an assignment. Right away, I called my photographer, who by all accounts is in the closest contact with me. I told him the situation and I asked him to stay in his vehicle until I figured out the situation. I then called my HR administrator. I told her everything. I listed everyone I saw and everyone I was in contact with over the past several days. The number was small. Thankfully, we’ve been preparing for this for months. I wore a mask when moving around the station. I anchor at a separate desk and in a different room from others. In the field, I use a long boom mic and do interviews outside. I keep at least 6 feet apart from others. I’d like to think this helped. My photographer isolated and later tested negative. So did my co-anchor, who got swabbed to ease her mind. I’m so relieved to report that I’m unaware of anyone catching the bug from me. Safety protocols work. We cannot become lax.
I knew when and how I was exposed. I’m grateful I found out, as it helped me know my risk for developing the virus. It also helped me isolate and make proper notifications. To this day, I have not received a single call from anyone in government informing me I had been exposed or asking about who I potentially exposed. Containing this bug has become incumbent upon ourselves.
I should point out I initially tested negative. I took a rapid test on-air for a story, without any reason to believe I had been infected. Two days later, after experiencing significant symptoms, I tested positive. I didn’t need a test to know I had COVID-19. My body knew.
Vic’s coronavirus timeline
Everyone’s body reacts differently to the virus. This is how mine reacted.
Life moves on. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Milestones. We are all fatigued from the pandemic. Some of us are numb to the numbers. It’s easy to fall back into old habits. Turn off the news and stay off social media, and the virus suddenly loses its priority. That doesn’t mean it’s losing its grip on us. Don’t chastise those who are living in fear. You don’t know their situation.
I’m battling this disease with all my might. I’m getting through it. And, statistically, I should be fine. I hope to put it in my past very soon. But I can’t help thinking about those who don’t have as good a chance. Who won’t catch their breath. Who are scared. And dying. Without a cure. Alone.
Loneliness is a killer, too.
I also think about the medical workers and first responders who are dealing with tragedy and putting their lives at risk. My own relatives work in the ICUs in some of the biggest hotspots in the world. They’ve had so many patients die on them. This hurts them more than they’ll admit.
As I sat in bed, day after day, trembling, I watched the world go on without me. It’s humbling. It’s also frustrating. I saw people I know acting irresponsibly. I saw fighting. I saw anger and hatred. It’s not my place to tell people what to do or how to think. But I saw it. And I still see it.
This isn’t about the blame game. It shouldn’t be political. I remain in self-isolation. Lockdown takes a toll on your mental health. It’s lonely and at times maddening. But it’s the right thing to do. Technology makes it easier.
I write this a week into the battle. I pray the worst is over. This is my story. And I felt it was time to tell it. As a journalist reporting on the pandemic and other of humanity’s biggest issues, it wouldn’t be fair for me to keep this a secret. This isn’t a publicity stunt. Rumors have been swirling. I live a fairly public life and essentially disappeared in the matter of a few hours. I notified those who needed to know so they could protect themselves and then I focused on beating this illness.
We all like privacy, but this is bigger than that. My story is not unique. But it’s also not the standard. The coronavirus affects everyone differently.
I went from having one of the busiest schedules of anyone I know to sitting at home. Hour after hour. Day after day. I hope to emerge from this stronger, kinder, more compassionate, more grounded, more patient. I pray it becomes more manageable. I believe having a positive mindset is a big factor.
I’m feeling better today than I have since day 1. It’s been a slow process, but I feel that I’m recovering well. Most of the symptoms have gone away and I’m planning a safe return to society. I want to be productive again. Active. I want to see people, albeit from a safe distance. I want to be of service to our community.
I want life to go back to normal just as much as you do. I also know some things may never be the same.
Most of you will keep scrolling. Other things will come up. We’re bombarded 24/7. Your life will go on. I’m thankful you’ve read this far.
But maybe a few will help make a difference. I’ve been careful. I could’ve done more. You can too. You know what to do. Do it for your loved ones. Do it for the greater good. Take this thing seriously. Or, at least, respect others who do. Check on your loved ones. Go above and beyond for others.
We’re in this together.