PISCATAWAY, NJ — The coronavirus pandemic has hit the hearts of Piscataway.
Two-time NBA All-Star and No. 1 overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns revealed late Tuesday night in a YouTube video which he later posted on his social media accounts early Wednesday morning that his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, is hospitalized, on a ventilator, and in a medically induced coma.
Towns fought back tears in his 5-minute, 47-second video.
“I think it’s important that everyone understands the severity of what’s happening in the world right now with this coronavirus," Towns said. “I was told early last week that my parents weren’t feeling well. My first reaction was to go seek medical attention immediately and there’s no reason to wait. I was very adamant since the first day to go to a hospital and seek evaluation. My sister and I told her she needs to get checked for corona. I don’t think anyone really understood what it was.”
Towns, who said his father was also sick but got better and was released and told to quarantine at the house, said his mom kept getting sicker.
“She kept getting worse. The hospital was doing everything they could. I did everything I could and still am. She wasn’t getting better,” Towns said. “Her fever was never cutting from 103, maybe getting down to 101.9 with the meds and immediately spiking back up during the night. She was very uncomfortable. Her lungs and cough were getting worse. She was deteriorating. We always thought that the next medicine would help. This is one that’s going to get it done. This mixture would get it done.
“They released my dad with mandated quarantine at the house. He’s still there today. But my mom wasn’t allowed to leave. Both of them got tests. Both of them didn’t get results for a long time. We all assumed my mom had COVID-19 due to the symptoms she was having, and she was deteriorating daily.”
Cruz actually felt better for a short while, but Towns hasn’t talked to her since she was put in a coma not long after.
“The day she was feeling great we talked and she felt and I felt she was turning the corner. I felt we were heading in the right direction, but they said she went sideways quick. Her lungs were getting worse and she was having trouble breathing. They were explaining to me she had to be put on a ventilator. I was trying to encourage her and stay positive.
“She’s been in a medically-induced coma since that day. I haven’t talked to her. I haven’t been able to obviously communicate with her. I’ve just been getting updates on her condition. It’s rough. Day by day, we’ll see how it goes and stay positive. I’ll be very positive. I talked to her before she went there and told her I loved her. Every day I was telling her how much I love her. She was telling things that I didn’t want to hear, so I dismissed some things. It’s very difficult for me and my family, to say the least. ...She is the head of our household. She’s the boss."
Towns, who was raised in Piscataway and played high school hoops at St. Joseph in Metuchen before going to Kentucky for one season and then the NBA, was averaging 26.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this year when the NBA season was suspended due COVID-19 two weeks ago.
“I’m keeping my strength up for everybody,” Towns said. “I wanted to make this video so people understand the severity of this disease. It’s real. This disease needs not to be taken lightly. Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself. Practice social distancing. Please don’t be in places with a lot of people.”
Even before his mother became ill, he donated $100,000 to the Mayo Clinic to help with testing.
“This disease is deadly. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to win,” Towns said. “I hope my story gives you the correct information. I send my love to all of your families. My mother is the strongest woman I know and I know she’ll beat this and we’re going to rejoice when she does.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
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