It was thirteen months ago that we first started hearing about cases of Coronavirus here in the United States. Because it was so new, we were learning as we went along. Information about what the symptoms were, what precautions needed to be taken, and who was most vulnerable changed from day to day.
I started showing signs of the virus on Monday of the last week of April. I had the typical symptoms; just didn’t feel very well – had fever, shortness of breath, cough, and body aches. I was tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday or Thursday, and got the COVID-positive results back on Friday.
Over the weekend, I continued to have fever so bad that I wasn’t sleeping, and I was very dizzy, things like that. On Monday, I was so bad that my wife called for an ambulance and I was admitted to Trinitas Hospital. My recollection of that is a little fuzzy. But from what I know, I developed respiratory failure to the point where I needed to be put on a ventilator. I was transferred from Trinitas to Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC) where I was treated in the ICU. They had a COVID team. At that time, most places were limited in medication for COVID. But JCMC was one of the few places that had access to Remdesivir.
I was on the ventilator for 3 weeks at JCMC. I was taken off of it the last week in May, when I was able to breathe on my own. But I needed rehabilitation. My walking was not good; I had weakness in my right hand and right arm – I had a stroke-like condition which you can have with COVID. I had trouble feeding myself … doing anything.
Once I was off the ventilator the first step was to get an MRI. Two days later I was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, and I was there for a total of six weeks. They were great. After the first two weeks I was transferred back to JCMC for a couple of days. I had to have a surgical procedure as I had developed an abscess, and I needed to have a drain inserted.
Jersey City Medical Center pretty much saved my life. While I was at Kessler, I asked my wife, “How bad was I while I was at Medical Center?” She told me that I was bad, but not bad enough for the last rites. She also told me I was a bad patient! (What, me?)
I came home from Kessler on July 8, 2020. It was one of the best days of my life! During the time I was at JCMC and Kessler, I was only able to “visit” and see, my wife and sons through a window.
I underwent physical and occupational therapy at home. In September the drain was removed, and in October, I started outpatient therapy at Kessler three days a week. Now, I’m going for therapy two days a week. I’m making a lot of progress. I’m walking well. My energy level is increasing, but it’s not back to 100%. I don’t have the same strength that I had in my arm. My body is recovering, and I can do just about everything.
What do I know now, that I wish I’d known before? A lot of things. People really need to follow the guidelines: wear a mask, keep socially distanced, get tested. Also, get the vaccine … get the vaccine! You also have to take care of your body and your mind; you have to stay sharp physically and mentally. And you need to know your risk factors and take control of things like your diet, your blood pressure, exercising. COVID destroys the body … literally! The better health you’re in, the better your chances of fighting it.
Everything happens for a reason. Having COVID was a test of my faith. Being a patient was therapeutic, because I learned to better empathize with patients. You know, you think you are bad off, but you see people who were much younger who actually are much more ill. There is no discriminating with COVID. Doesn’t matter what age, color or creed you are, what you do in life – you could be a doctor, a minister, a banker, a truck driver … anyone. I’ve become much more sensitive and God-fearing.
When I was an in-patient at Kessler, the staff was always extremely positive about me recovering, even when I was not feeling well at all. They took excellent care of me. There was a Nurse’s Aide who would come to my bedside and pray with me. She would tell me: “You are going to get better. You are going to go home. When you recover you are going to understand how important life is.”
I’m good now, and so grateful for everyone’s prayers. I realize the best thing I can do is tell people about COVID-19, and my experience with it.
I lived to tell this: Be careful. Follow the guidelines. Get the vaccine. Stay on top of your physical and mental health. COVID is serious. Your life is important.
Thanks to everyone who prayed for me and who played a role in my recovery.
Dr. Patrick Beaty, M.D. is the Vice President of Medical Affairs & Chief Medical Officer of Metropolitan Family Health Network in Hudson County, NJ.