They all expected me to croak. But I didn’t.
On Christmas Day 2020 I was taken, non-responsive, by ambulance to Torrance Memorial Medical Center. I’d been diagnosed with COVID-19 for more than a week. I was super tired, desperately in need of sleep. No appetite. And then, after 10 days, I basically went into a viral tailspin.
The massive amounts of antibiotics, anti-fungicides, Remdesivir, plasma and more, pumped into me simply wasn’t enough. Doctors recommended the last resort: intubation. I knew what happened to folks who were kept on a ventilator for too long. And I did not want that to be me.
My staff at our PR agency went into crisis mode, taking on new clients and reassuring existing ones that they were well taken care of. The agency never missed a beat. My sudden arrival in the ICU became a test of their leadership, courage and staying focused on their jobs—and I’m very proud to say every single associate rose up, took on even more work and thrived.
Sedated, I had no real awareness or memory of what was going on. Delirious, I tried ripping out the IVs. I thought I was in Central California, working on an ecological, “Save the Ocean” kind of project for a new client, and kept wondering, “What in blue blazes is Torrance Memorial doing in San Luis Obispo?”
Each night the nurses strapped both my wrists to the bed, like a Nurse Ratched bad dream.
After 12 days of being sedated while on the ventilator, the doctor said to my sons, “Well this doesn’t seem to be helping. Let’s take him off. We can always put him back on.”
One nurse told my sister, “I don’t see the point on keeping him on a ventilator this long. He’s not going to make it.”
Maybe it was the heart attack I had while intubated or the total renal failure that contributed to the medical determination of: “It’s not working.” In total, I was in the ICU for 13 days.
My oldest son kept everyone apprised of my situation and the desperation of it. And though I didn’t know it, those group texts and Facebook posts resulted in hundreds and hundreds of people praying for me. I attribute my recovery to those prayers, the incredible support from a terrific hospital staff and the diligence of my sons. I got to read hundreds of posts about me on Facebook, LinkedIn and of course old-fashioned email and texts.
I’m here. I beat the damn COVID. And as PR professionals, I believe we have a duty to better educate our communities to take the virus seriously. That’s why I’m writing this.
During my 24-day hospitalization, I lost 30 pounds. It wasn’t like what Emily Blunt said in “The Devil Wears Prada”: “I’m just one stomach flu away from my ideal weight.”
It turns out that if you lie in a bed for two weeks, your muscles atrophy. In the 24 days of being strapped to a bed, and never leaving it, 30 pounds of muscle disappeared from my buttocks, legs, arms and face. (But not my waist!)
The virus has changed my life. I know what it means to not be able to walk without help or assistance. To be unable to shower or bathe by oneself. To not be able to put on one’s own clothes. My heart goes out to everyone I see who might be in some way struggling. Honestly, I don’t know what to say or do to ease their isolation. And if you have suggestions, I would appreciate an email with your guidance.
Discharged from the hospital, I also brought home COVID brain fog. Asked a question, the answer would sit in my brain, unable to come out of my mouth for 30 seconds, a minute or more. And as you can already tell, as a professional PR person, and the 2019 PRSA-LA Communications Professional of the Year, I’m never at a loss for words. This was terrifying. And on top of it all, my hands trembled, which never happened before. And then there were my lungs. Maybe from the intubation, or COVID; but for three months I have had tightness in my chest like ropes are around my lungs only allowing a limited intake of air, before I feel the constriction.
As you read this, I’m once again in total quarantine.
My son, a paramedic, has just been diagnosed with COVID. He and his family were just visiting, and now I’ve been exposed. So, everyone from my personal trainer, friends, family and associates have said, “Stay away. Don’t come back till you are cleared with yet another COVID test.”
My biggest takeaway is to hold tight to the people I’ve met along the way, especially those who I truly respect and care for. Zoom makes staying in touch and feeling close so much easier than ever before. And one day I look to travel and see people I haven’t in years. They are my tourist bucket list destinations.
While I have recovered my weight, stabled my trembling hands and, for the most part, pushed away the Brain Fog, it’s not over. Not by a long shot.
COVID isn’t going anywhere. This disease isn’t to be ignored. And if we rally as professionals to help share our incredibly fast growing body of knowledge of COVID we might just make our world a bit brighter.
Bob Gold is founder and CEO of Bob Gold & Associates.