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  • Kevin Scarbinsky

My 2020 coda: I got COVID for Christmas

It started with a scratchy throat two days before Christmas and ended with an ambulance ride to the UAB Hospital emergency room on the second day of the New Year.


Scratch that. It didn't end. Obviously. Thankfully. Otherwise I wouldn't be here to tell the truthers, hoaxers, you're-not-the-boss-of-me anti-maskers and other novel coronavirus deniers that COVID-19 is no joke. It's not the flu on steroids, either. It's the upper respiratory infection from hell.


At least it was for me, and I'm one of the lucky ones. I got to leave the hospital after four days and three nights in a wheelchair and an SUV. Too many others have suffered the terrible, fatal alternative.


I was fortunate to be able to come home, annoy instead of worry my wife, watch my sons resume their high school basketball season, rub Kogi the Corgi's belly and experience the exclamation mark of the 2020 Alabama football team's season-long excellence in the comfort of our family room in the actual presence of my family. As opposed to the day of the national semifinals when, quarantined in the guest bedroom in the dark, curled in the fetal position, praying to Touchdown Jesus for relief, the virus that had been pumping iron inside me for about 10 days launched and hit me like Clemson's James Skalski introducing the crown of his helmet to Justin Fields' ribs.


And that was a good day compared to the next day. My fever climbed above 104, my oxygen level dipped into the 80s, the week-long dull sinus headaches escalated into migraines and my head felt as if it might actually, physically explode. And I wouldn't have minded.


What's the number for 911?


The next few hours were a blur of incredibly skilled and patient paramedics, ambulance attendants, ER nurses and doctors proving themselves angels who walk among us. I can't name them all, but I'll never stop thanking them in my heart. I found myself on the business end of IV fluids, oxygen masks, an EKG, chest x-ray, blood samples and who knows what else - and damn glad to be there. As if I needed another reason to be a UAB fan.


Just this month, my dad stopped working in the backyard long enough to celebrate his 86th birthday, made possible because of successful bypass surgery he underwent at UAB Hospital - 28 years ago. Almost three decades later, I found relief from COVID-19 there after three hour-long IV drips of remdesivir, developed under the guidance of the UAB-led Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center.


It goes without saying, but it should be said, shouted and repeated daily in Birmingham and beyond. UAB wins in football, basketball and pursuits far more meaningful.


A little more than five weeks after my personal introduction to COVID-19 started with a sore throat, I still get an occasional but manageable flashback to my unhappy holidays. That stretch was the sickest I've ever felt. Now, the pneumonia has yet to fully clear from both lungs, I didn't totally taste the smoky goodness of that barbecue sandwich at lunch, it would be nice to go 15 minutes without coughing and I won't be playing backyard pickup with my sons and their friends anytime soon.


Listen. I am not complaining, not for one congested second. Mercifully, I did not infect my family, and unlike the hundreds of thousands of souls in the United States alone sent to the grave by this pandemic, I'm here. Thankful. Sorrowful. Angry at anyone and everyone who downplayed it, mocked it or ignored it. So even though the doc says I'm fully immune in the short run and partially immune for up to a year, if you're working the drive-through at Milo's, say hi. I'll be the guy in the white car and the blue mask.


And when I qualify to get in line to get the vaccine, get out of here with your wacko conspiracy theories. I'm there. Out of breath but full of hope.


Christmas and New Year's in the time of COVID-19. (Photo illustration: KS)


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