The journey for me started with a very slight cough. On March 17, I started experiencing internal digestive symptoms that I initially assumed was a result of me not eating anything that day. It was a Tuesday, which meant it was press day at the Houston Forward Times, where I serve as the associate editor.
Now, it wasn’t uncommon for me to skip breakfast and skip lunch in order to remain laser focused on getting the newspaper done. However, when I started feeling faint, I decided to get something to eat.
I made my way down to the Reggae Hut around 5:30 p.m. and ordered the oxtails, rice and peas and the vegetables, along with a beef patty and a Kola Champagne to drink.
I made my way back down to my office with my plate and I ate a little bit of the rice and peas; a little of the vegetables; and barely ate one of the oxtails, before closing the container and putting the plate in the refrigerator. That was the last time I saw that plate or my office.
Loss of appetite
The next day, I not only had a continuous loss of appetite, I also had stomach pain and was experiencing heavy and unusual bouts of diarrhea. I even had an episode where I went to the bathroom and while on the way, I passed out and was disoriented.
I woke up lying on the floor in a sweat, trying to figure out what happened to me. I drank lots of water, tried natural remedies and ceased all of my normal activities. None of that worked or changed my situation.
Quarantine and isolation
I self-quarantined and self-isolated for eight. During that time, I contacted my primary care physician, who informed me that continuing to self-quarantine was probably the best option at the time, considering the symptoms I was experiencing.
I decided to reach out to my good friend, State Representative Ron Reynolds to express my concerns about my health status, as well as get his advice on whether he thought I should go through one of the drive-thru testing sites that had recently opened.
I desperately wanted to get tested, primarily for my peace of mind, but also because I was concerned for my family. They were still living in the same house as me.
I saw the news. I read the media reports online and on social media. It was clear, based on those reports, that I was not displaying the type of respiratory symptoms that the majority of COVID-19 patients were reported to have been experiencing, such as shortness of breath or having a heavy cough.
Facing the reality
There were also reports that the only way a person could be tested was if they were elderly or a first responder. I was deeply concerned.
A few days after my call with Rep. Reynolds, I received a call on my cell phone from U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on Wednesday, March 25. She immediately informed me that she wanted me to come down to United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on Tidwell to get tested right away.
As I was driving to the hospital, Congresswoman Lee told me that she had already spoken to the chief medical officer for UMMC, Dr. Joseph Varon, and that he was prepared to receive me and administer the test.
I was told by Dr. Varon that my test results would take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to come back, so I waited patiently and eagerly.
On that Friday, March 27, things took a drastic turn for the worse, as it relates to my health. I began to cough, and what I thought would be regular phlegm coming out, turned out to be a significant amount of bright red blood.
As this continued to happen, I made the decision to call Dr. Varon and share my update. After hearing my status, Dr. Varon implored me to come to the UMMC emergency room immediately, which I prepared to do.
Before I got off the phone with him, however, he hit me with the update I was anxious to finally receive, but with some news I was definitely hoping and praying not to hear. Dr. Varon informed me that I had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Another shocking reveal
One of the first things Dr. Varon ordered his medical staff to do with me upon my arrival to the ER was to do a CT scan. For those who may not know, a CT scan is more detailed than a regular X-ray and allows doctors to see inside your body by using a combination of X-rays and a computer to create images of your organs and other things inside your body.
Of course, I didn’t know why a CT scan was being performed on me at the time, nor did I know what the end result would be.
Let me just say that performing that CT scan on me was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, because it revealed something major that was going on inside my body that couldn’t be seen by looking at me from the outside.
The CT scan revealed that my lungs showed a severe case of pneumonia, as well as other issues involving my vital organs that came as a result of the coronavirus.
It was decided at that moment that I needed to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) right away. It was then that I realized how serious things were, and it was the moment that I knew that I was going to have to rely on my faith in God.
I called my wife to tell her I was being admitted and informed her that I was not going to be able to have any visitation throughout my time in the ICU. I was on a mental and emotional roller coaster at this point. I didn’t know how long I would be in ICU, but more importantly, whether I would make it out alive.
The battle begins
On Friday, March 27, the journey towards fighting the coronavirus had truly just begun.
Not only did I have a severe case of pneumonia when I entered ICU, my liver and kidneys also needed to be protected from the virus; my heart rate was through the roof; my heart condition worsened, and I was headed to the point of potential heart failure.
My blood pressure was high; I had a sharp pain in my right side; I continued to have heavy diarrhea episodes; and I still had a loss of appetite. Things were not looking good for me and I felt horrible. I began to wonder if I was ever going to get better.
Because I didn’t have any respiratory issues, just digestive issues, it caused the doctors to develop a treatment plan for me that was different than other patients they had been treating prior to my arrival to the hospital. Dr. Varon and Dr. Joseph Gathe, Jr. oversaw my care.
They created a whole coronavirus cocktail, which included heavy doses of vitamin C, which was specific to my treatment. Per Dr. Varon, my case taught them that they must use high dose blood thinners on every Coronavirus patient admitted to the hospital.
After several days, my symptoms began to subside, and my appetite came back in a major way. I longed for my breakfast, lunch and dinner, and couldn’t wait to eat it. Dr. Varon eventually informed me that all of my vital organs had returned to normal and that my blood work and vital signs were solid.
Finally, I felt like I was turning a corner and getting better. That was until a second CT scan was performed, which revealed more shocking and devastating news regarding my health condition.
When the results of my second CT scan came back, it revealed that I had been diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in my right lung.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when blood clots block the flow of blood to the lungs. A pulmonary embolism can be fatal and life threatening, which is why Dr. Varon and his team promptly took the necessary steps to address the blood clot and reduce my risk of death. I was immediately placed on blood thinner medication.
Recovery and faith
I continued to follow the instructions of the doctors until I received that wonderful news that on Sunday, April 5, I had made significant and miraculous improvement, and subsequently was being discharged to go home to my family. I was so thrilled, yet still deeply concerned because I still didn’t know whether I was still postive with the coronavirus.
I was concerned about my family and praying they would be fine. Prior to being discharged, I had another COVID-19 test done and was awaiting the results. I self-isolated once again, until I got my second test results. After several days, I got the results and tested negative for the virus.
Because I wanted to be completely sure before interacting with my family again, the doctors administered another COVID-19 test and those results came back negative as well.
This was a long and faith-filled journey, to which I still am slated to have to deal with this blood clot in my right lung for the next six months or so. I will continue to fight and do what I am supposed to do.
I am forever grateful to God and to everyone who uttered a prayer, shared an encouraging word, providing any resources or sent positive energy my way.
My family and I greatly appreciate each and every one of you. God bless you, and let’s do everything in our power to defeat this horrible and vicious COVID-19 virus.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as associate aditor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. He also is a Next Generation Project Fellow, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. He can be reached for speaking engagements at email@example.com.