A COVID Survivor's Message: "Put the Armor On"
After making peace with death, then recovering, Will Jones wants us to take the disease seriously.
Editor's note: Will Jones appeared in a video interview for Rocky Mountain Public Media. The audio version here has been edited for length.
The disease moved in swiftly.
"On Jan. 4, I was great. On Jan. 5, I was miserable. And on Jan. 10, I thought I was going to die."
Will Jones tells other people's stories for a living: As a broadcast news and sports reporter, as a spokesman for Denver Botanic Gardens and the University of Denver, and for the last six years as director of external communications for Denver Public Schools.
But now he has his own story to tell.
Choking back tears, he recalls the worst moments of his struggle with COVID-19, when his wife told him not to give up, and he found himself "saying the things you'd say when you think your time is up."
Jones had been trying hard not to get sick during the pandemic ? working from home, wearing a mask, not spending time with his friends.
Then, one day, "all of a sudden everything started hurting," he said. " ... It hit me so hard, I knew it had to be COVID."
He had a temperature of 106.3 degrees, and a finger monitor showed his blood oxygen dropping below 90. "I was afraid that if I went to sleep, I wasn't going to wake up," he said.
Jones said he kept alternating between burning up and freezing, "and it felt like someone was stabbing me in my lungs." He felt his entire body cramping, like "I was trapped inside this machine that was finally shutting down."
He woke up his wife at 1 a.m. and asked her to take him to the hospital. On the way, he made peace with what he thought would be his imminent death.
But, unlike more than half a million other Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19, Jones survived, and made it home after a short hospital stay.
"Today, I just got my sense of smell and taste back," he shared with friends Feb. 15 in a birthday Facebook message. "My lungs are damaged. But, I’m healing."
As soon as he could, Jones got vaccinated. He heeded advice from experts that even people who have already had COVID should get their shots.
"Black people, all people, need armor right now," he said. "We are in a battle, and the only armor that I have found thus far is this vaccine."
And now, Jones has a message for those who don't take the virus seriously.
"It doesn't fight fair. It doesn't tell you it's coming, it sneaks up on you, it jumps you, and it destroys you from the inside out. And so any armor that you can get right now, I recommend that you get it."
COVID, he added, "doesn't care what you think, doesn't care who you voted for, doesn't care how much pigment you have ... It doesn't matter. COVID is out here killing people. And the best way to defend yourself right now is to get the vaccine.
"If you have something to lose, if you have people that love you, put the armor on."
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Mark Duggan provided online and audio production of this story for KSUT.
This story was written in partnership with Rocky Mountain Public Media, through a collaboration powered by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative — a nonprofit formed to strengthen local public-service journalism in Colorado. KSUT joined this historic collaboration with more than 40 news organizations to share in-depth local reporting to better serve Coloradans.