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Juan Williams: My battle with COVID

Two weeks ago, I tested positive for the coronavirus.

I am a 66-year-old cancer survivor.

I am a black man.

And I inhale my share of second-hand smoke because my wife smokes cigarettes.

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So I set off several red lights that indicate a high risk of a bad outcome if I got COVID-19.

And I really didn’t want my wife, the smoker, to have COVID-19 attack her lungs.

After the phone call telling me I tested positive on a lab test, I was sent for two more tests. They confirmed the worst.

A bad situation kept going down. My wife told me I couldn’t come home for fear of spreading the virus to her.

So I immediately went into quarantine in a hotel room.

Physically, I was not doing well. Already there was extreme fatigue, sudden waves of fever and then chills that left goosebumps on my skin. The headaches, the sinus pain, feeling as if I was going to pass out — it was terrible.

At night, sleep was rare and dreams out of control.

I’d turn over and think, “This bed is wet.” Then I’d realize there was sweat pouring off me.

But it was the isolation that was hell. That and feeling caught in an out-of-control situation.

The doctors tell you there is not much they can do for you until you can’t breathe. If you have trouble breathing, call an ambulance, they add.

Suddenly, I felt trapped in a small room. I began to fixate on the thought that there is no fresh air because the windows don’t open.

As I looked out the window at masked people walking down the street I realized I was the one they wanted to avoid — a person with a confirmed positive test capable of spreading the disease.

What a mind shift.

Until then I thought of myself as the cautious one, avoiding people spreading the virus. I am the one always wearing the mask, even stepping off the sidewalk to avoid getting too close to anyone. Now, I was the threat, the bad guy.

Turning on the TV did not do much good. The numbers on the virus do not calm. This deadly disease has infected 16 million people, and killed about 300,000, in the U.S. alone. The hospitals are full.

The texts and emails from friends became a lifeline.

Given that this is the Christmas season, I had a new appreciation for how angels helped that cranky Ebenezer Scrooge and the depressed Jimmy Stewart, playing George Bailey, in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

So many people helped me to push back the fear.

Even one of my critics, a big Trump supporter, tweeted: “God’s Blessings to you and your family during this difficult time. I hope you get better soon so we can disagree some more. Get Well Soon.”

My son left novels. My daughter left a folding exercise bike so I could keep moving.

Even better, she brought my grandchildren to the street far below my hotel room window. They waved at me.

The hotel staff left food outside my door. They were my lifeline.

One night, a waiter stood at a distance to tell me he had only two couples at the lobby restaurant. One of them was talking about me. They argued about my wife not letting me come home. Is that true, he asked?

When I said it was true, he laughed. And for the first time in days, I got to laugh, too.

Despite the kindness, my mind started to wander into some dark places. I won’t sugarcoat it. I went a little stir-crazy.

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Sick as I was, I found myself telling a friend to look out for my family if the virus overwhelmed me.

And you start asking yourself, “Where did I get this? What did I do wrong?”

It is only speculation, but the biggest risk I took was one cold night when I got pulled into a crowded New York restaurant.

A few days after that, I reached out to a doctor. But he told me not to worry. Even when my nose started to drip, I told myself not to be a wimp — it is allergy season and people do get colds.

But it got worse.

And then came the positive test.

Three days into quarantine, my wife called to say she tested positive.

The guilt kicked in.

But the doctors said since we both had the virus we could quarantine together. I could go home. Ending the isolation was a big emotional lift.

Fourteen days after my positive test and my quarantine I am feeling much better. My wife is even better. Thank God.

Over the years, I have rarely shared personal stories. Readers come here to read into the theater of politics.

My general rule is to only open personal wounds when there is a clear lesson to offer.

The lesson here is to take this virus seriously — wear the mask, wash your hands, keep your social distance. And reach out to people hit with it.

The coronavirus doesn’t care whether you are a liberal or conservative.

We are all in this together. Our best hope is to take care of each other.

Merry Christmas. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.