When You Can’t Breathe, Nothing Else Matters

#AFROCoronavirusUpdate

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By Cohen Cosby III
Special to the AFRO

I woke up Sunday morning with a slight cough, but I didn’t think anything of it because I have asthma and seasonal allergies. After a 30-minute home workout, I sat down on the couch and started doing some work for a client. Almost as soon as I sat down, I started feeling tightness in my chest. Once again, I didn’t think anything of it.

To loosen the tightness in my chest, I started using my inhaler, but that didn’t help. A few hours went by and it was getting harder and harder for me to breathe, so I called a family member and asked if I could borrow his nebulizer machine, which delivers a more potent dose of the same medicine that’s in my inhaler.

Cohen Cosby III, 34, shared his experience with having COVID-19. (Courtesy Photo)

After doing a couple rounds on the nebulizer machine, it was still getting harder and harder for me to breathe and my body was starting to ache. At around 10 p.m. the tightness in my chest and shortness of breath was starting to scare me so I went to the ER.

When I got to the ER, my symptoms were worse than they were before. I was quickly taken to a hospital room where my vitals were taken. The nurse who took my vitals noticed I had a fever and gave me a mask. She told me to stay in the hospital room until the doctor came. I sat there for a few hours quarantined.

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Another nurse came in and hooked me to a pulse oxygen machine to see if I needed an oxygen tank or ventilator. Thankfully my condition was not severe enough for either of those options. I was given some Tylenol for my fever, body aches and chills. I tried my best not to cough because they were extremely painful, like the ones that rock your whole body.

After about 30 minutes, a doctor came in to take a blood sample and hook me to an IV. After that was done, she told me I’d be given a coronavirus test and put a very long cotton tip in both of my nostrils and swabbed the back of my nasal passages. I was told my coronavirus test results could take up to five days and that someone would call me once they were in.

Cohen Cosby III (Courtesy Photo)

After she left, I just laid in the hospital room trying to catch my breath. Another nurse came in to take me to get chest x-rays. After the x-rays, I went back to my room and waited another hour or so for another doctor to come in and tell me that based on my x-rays it was likely that I had coronavirus.

My heart dropped! 

I began to get even more anxious as I thought about all of the different people I had been around the previous two weeks. (The incubation period for the coronavirus is 14 days) I also thought about how I now had to operate in a new way. From this point on, it was no longer just about me, what I did or didn’t do could affect the health of so many people.

I started making a list of all the people I had been around the previous two weeks. As I was making the list my breathing started improving, which allowed me to fall asleep.

A nurse woke me up at 4 a.m. to take my vitals, blood oxygen levels and EKG test again. My numbers were good so they decided I could go home.

When I got home I was feeling a lot better so I sanitized my kitchen and bathroom and went to bed. When I woke up later that afternoon, I was feeling a lot better than the night before. My breathing had improved and the body aches and chills were gone. I began to think my health was turning the corner for good and I tried to pick up where I left off— contacting friends I had been around and finishing up with client work.

I had finished up a relatively good day and was lying in bed when all of a sudden my symptoms started getting worseworse than they were when I went to the ER. I begin to cough more and my chest started to tighten again.

As I was in bed struggling to breathe, my life flashed before my eyes. I begin to think about my own mortality in a way that I had never done before. “Could this be it?” 

I decided to go back to the ER. 

The doctor let me know the swab test I had taken Sunday night had come back sooner than expected and that it was positive for coronavirus. 

I begin to think about all the people I’ve been around in the past few days and how my positive test was going to alter their lives in some way.  I didn’t know what reaction to expect from them. I didn’t know if they would get mad at me for my decision-making or somehow make it my fault or be upset that their lives may be altered as well. But the outpouring of love and support I got back from my friends and family really lifted my spirits. No one judged me. They were all really concerned about my wellbeing.

I was in a hospital bed for another hour before the nurse came with discharge papers and instructions to not leave my house for 14 days. 

I decided to write my story for a few reasons. First, to chronicle this ordeal that has changed my life forever and, secondly, to be a cautionary tale for people who are not taking this coronavirus situation seriously. I wish could go back in time and change some of my actions— like social distancing far sooner than recommended, and being much more diligent about hand washing and face touching.

In times like this, we, the human community, have to come together and look out for one another. We have to put the good of the collective over our individual selfish wants.

Update: Cohen Cosby III has fully recovered from COVID-19.