Hindsight is 2020 has a whole new meaning this year.
It all began pretty routine. Super Bowl weekend in February was the same as every year – I was on my annual ski trip in Vail, Colorado with my best friend when we started hearing something about a virus in China. It was on the news, but we never thought to pay much attention to it. We did what I suppose everyone else did – we went about our business, had a fantastic weekend skiing and enjoying the big game. As we traveled home of course I was careful to use hand sanitizer as I always do when flying, wiping everything down on the plane, but not really doing anything different than I normally do.
Now, let’s fast forward 3 or 4 weeks and life makes a radical shift. I’ll never forget that I was at my office on March 12th when the world literally shut down. Both myself and my brother (also my business partner), did not feel comfortable being in the office after hearing and watching the news that day and how COVID19 was wreaking havoc worldwide. That was my last day at LLoyd for a long time. Our country and world went into lockdown. School closed…work closed and the black cloud over everyone’s head seemed to get darker every day. I’m usually not the type of guy to have high anxiety, but honestly once this virus came on the scene my anxiety started climbing. A pandemic happens in the movies, this was real life. I was straight up scared — more scared than I have ever been in my whole life… for my family, my kids, myself and everyone I love and care about. It got so bad I stopped watching the news because it was just too disturbing. So again, I did what everyone else did — I hunkered down in my house, me, my kids and my wife basically self quarantining, not knowing when or how we were going to move forward. I have my parents nearby that are getting older, so of course I was and still am concerned about them and their health.
For the first three weeks we had groceries delivered. I didn’t leave the house other than to exercise in my backyard and walk around the neighborhood. Everything was closed – even my gym which I go to 7 days a week at 6:15 am each day. To say life got real different real quick is an understatement. My wife Debbie and I went out just twice in those first few weeks to get groceries when home deliveries became impossible to order or schedule. In the last few days of March we ventured out to Whole Foods and then to Trader Joe’s and we went wearing masks, being as careful as possible; I admit we were very nervous. Later that same night I was lying in bed and woke up at about 1:30 a.m. I felt weird, not at all like myself. I woke Debbie and said to her “I’m burning up, can you get the thermometer.” She got out of bed and took my temperature and it read 102 degrees. I had heard on the TV you should only take Tylenol if you had a possible COVID fever and asked if we had any. Of course we had no Tylenol in the house and everything was closed even the local 24 hour CVS and 711. I called my brother Andrew at 2 am and I told him I didn’t feel well and was running a high fever and needed Tylenol. Luckily, his house had a supply so my wife and son, Jack, drove over to Andrew’s house in the wee hours of the morning to get some.
The next morning I woke up feeling worse than I did the night before. I had horrible fatigue, a high fever, body aches, a bad stomach and overall fear and terror like I have never experienced. All you kept hearing on TV is people getting this virus going to the hospital and some dying. And so, my journey began. I told Debbie she needed to move out of the bedroom so I could quarantine and not get anyone else in the house sick. She spent the next two days scrambling to try and get me tested somewhere. Remember, this was at the height of the madness at the beginning of April and at that time, only first responders and doctors were able to get tested immediately. She finally found an opening at Huntington Hospital after calling all over. I had all the symptoms of the virus and was feeling absolutely horrible. On Day 3, Debbie was able to get me an appointment at the hospital for the outside tent where I was to be tested. I’ll never forget how it took all my strength to get myself dressed to walk out to my truck so that I could drive to Huntington on my own because again, I didn’t want my family in close proximity. I felt very faint and weak, but I made it there. I pulled up to the tent, gave my insurance info and a pleasant young female hospital worker took a swab and literally stuck it up my nostril until it felt like it was almost touching my brain. She advised me to take lots of Tylenol, to hydrate heavily and just rest. She looked me in the eye and told me, “You will be ok. Just be strong.” I wanted reassurance and asked if would really be ok and she said yes, to just rest and take it easy. I will never forget that young woman and her positivity and reassuring manner. It really helped me because I was feeling like I was living a scene out of a horror movie. I could see all the nurses were in what looked like space suits and the emergency room was packed inside and out. So scary.
I drove home, got back into bed and continued to feel horrible. There was a constant fever, intense fatigue, a sore throat and at times I was hallucinating. I had confined myself to the bedroom and no one was allowed in. I left only to use bathroom. My wife would bring food and drinks to me like a prisoner, leaving it on a table by the door. The next 5 days continued to be rough. It was difficult to fall asleep because I felt so horrible and was so scared. Debbie slept on the couch right outside the room because she was so nervous and if I needed help during the night she wanted to be there. I spent many sleepless nights just wondering would I ever get better and improve or would I take the wrong turn and god forbid, need medical attention and hospital care. If you recall, at that time all the doctor’s office were closed and the hospital was really your only option if you needed a doctor. The buzz everywhere was to avoid the hospital if at all possible because things were so dire there. My kids, Dylan and Jack, were super concerned and worried. They would knock on the door numerous times during the day and night to check on me asking if I needed anything. By Day 7 I was still not better and was continuing to run a fever and had a horrible sore throat although I did not have chest congestion. I had zero energy and could barely get out of bed to use the bathroom. My doctor, now aware of my illness maintained communication and she continued to advise me to take Tylenol, rest and take it easy. I did what I was told, but I’m saying to myself when the hell am I going to start improving and feel better? Day 8 I’m lying in bed watching TV and it’s about 11:30 pm and I get out of bed to use the bathroom. Dylan and Debbie are in the living room also watching TV. I was just leaving the bathroom to return to bed when I collapsed and fainted right outside of the bathroom door. I fell to the floor smashing my face and mouth as I hit hard. I remember Debbie slapping my face saying, “Come on Doug, come on – you’re ok” in an attempt to get me back. My mouth was bleeding and so was my nose because I hit something hard on the way down; in fact, I ripped the doorknob off the bedroom door trying to catch myself as I collapsed. I looked up and saw Jack and Dylan looking at me and I knew they were scared. I’ll never forget it. Debbie called 911 and Jack was waiting at the door when the paramedics arrived.
I wondered what was going to happen. At this point I’m sitting on the floor outside the bedroom and I can’t move. I knew first responders were on their way, but I was real foggy going in and out of consciousness. My daughter Dylan was standing there fighting tears. The Nassau County Police ambulance arrived with full sirens at midnight. I was still on the floor when they came in and asked me what happened. I told one of the guys I couldn’t get up and he said to just sit there and relax while he examined me. They took my blood pressure and pulse and checked my heart rate. By the grace of God my blood pressure was normal and so was my pulse. I wanted to know if fainting was common with the virus and was told they had seen a lot of this over the last week. They took care of my bleeding face and I looked at this guy and asked him if I should go to the hospital. He advised it was the last place I wanted to be right now because the ER was so chaotic and packed with very sick people. He felt that with my BP and pulse normal it was not necessary. I told him I was relying on him to make the right decision for me. The crew finally left after about 45 minutes, but the care and compassion I received was something I’ll never forget. God bless the Nassau County paramedics and the first responders – these people are saints from heaven. These guys were so kind I will never forget how they treated me. That may have been the worst night of my whole life. I got back into bed and I was terrified and felt beaten. I didn’t know what came next. It felt like I had been sick so long.
I barely slept that night and the next morning Debbie alerted my parents and brother to what had transpired. Everyone was beyond upset and concerned. I felt so bad. For the last 30 years I have talked to my Mom on the phone daily and now I was not even able to get out a few words. Day 9 after feeling horrible and still running a fever and with zero energy, Debbie insisted I get out of bed and try and walk a little. She cautioned that I was at risk to get pneumonia by remaining in bed. She had been watching Chris Cuomo on CNN and he too was battling the virus at the same time I was. Looking into the camera he told viewers that you must walk and move around. I forced myself out of bed and started walking around my bed to exercise. My energy was extremely low and was far from my daily gym routine. Still I forced myself for the next several days to move 2-3 times a day. Finally at Day 10 my fever finally broke. I would have no fever by day, but it would come back late at night. I was told if I went two days without a fever I would be heading in the right direction. When that finally happened I did start to feel a drop better – certainly not good, but a little better. After 14 days and 3 days of no fever I was able to come out of my room. I was still terrified to get anyone in the house sick so I was very cautious another 2 days.
Debbie laundered everything in the room to totally sanitize bedding, surfaces and objects. COVID19 had been nothing like I have ever experienced. The fear and anxiety on top of feeling so physically horrible was overwhelming at times. You spend a lot of time thinking about your life and what matters. I had told myself I needed to get better for my family and friends that I loved so much and life itself. Sixteen days in I woke up and walked up and down my street. I started doing that every morning for about 30 minutes; it was time to nurse myself back into shape and health. This was my routine for the next 4 weeks every day. To celebrate surviving we got a Peloton bike and I started riding every day. Eventually I began to run in the morning. Last time I checked, I had worked out for 130 days in a row. In total I lost 23 pounds between the virus and my exercising and I have kept it all off. My wife said the weight loss was a silver lining, if you could call it that. The outpouring of love that I received during this time from family and friends was overwhelming. There were calls, text, messages from colleagues. – everyone was incredible and contributed to my recovery and healing.
For those who think this virus is not real, you are sadly mistaken, it’s lethal, it’s dangerous and does not discriminate. This by far, was the darkest time I can remember in my life. With the love and support of my wife, kids, family and friends I got through it. I have seen the doctor twice for a full checkup and thank god I’m feeling healthy, as well as incredibly grateful. COVID19 taught me to focus on what’s really important and not to sweat the small stuff because things can change in a blink of an eye, just like it did on that night on March 31st. I am currently trying to better myself from the experience I endured. I’m committed to my physical health and well-being. I work out daily and I am trying to keep myself in the best shape possible. I am a very lucky guy, I have so many beautiful people in my life that really love me and care about me. I hope my story can help someone who is dealing with a difficult situation or a health scare to persevere. Life is precious and we should never take anything for granted. Live life to the fullest and always take care of the people you love and the ones who love you.
Doug Berkowitz is one of the principals of APR Executive Search, a LLoyd Staffing company. In 2019, APR joined forces with LLoyd where Doug continues to recruit and place senior level executives into a wide range of roles within industries such as Consumer Goods, Life Sciences, Big Pharma, Packaging, R&D/Innovation, Scientific/Quality Assurance/Regulatory, Supply Chain and more.
Email: DBerkowitz@LLoydstaffing.com Phone: 516.466.4120