Cultured Focus Magazine had a chance to interview COVID-19 survivor and 29-year-old bodybuilding ER nurse practitioner, Lequawn James, who has appeared on CNN, FOX and numerous news channels sharing his incredible story of survival. He discussed important lessons learned from his experience, information on prevention, and how to mentally stay sane in the midst of it all.
James said that he initially had mild symptoms, which resembled a pollen allergy or a cold. However, six days later he woke up with a fever, chills, and freezing in the middle of the night. He went to the hospital to get tested with a fever of 104 F. He tested positive for pneumonia and COVID-19. In fact, he had two COVID-19 tests - a nasal and a fluid test - the fluid came out positive while the nasal test was negative. He said the reason was that the nasal swab test is only 60 percent accurate. But, he was still shocked to find out he had COVID-19.
“I did not have a cough in 10 years so for it to come out of nowhere and affect me was unheard of,” says James. He also worked out six times a week and had excellent health. He advises anyone experiencing shakes, chills, fatigue, to be seen as the symptoms can progress extremely quickly in 24 hours.
In addition to pneumonia, James also developed an enlarged heart. He had to be put on a ventilator machine in order to breathe. He even had a hard time walking to the bathroom four feet away without oxygen. For treatment, he was prescribed Tylenol because Ibuprofen made the cough worse. James felt extremely isolated and alone, which is a common feeling expressed by patients. He was fortunate that hospital staff allowed him one last call to contact his family to tell them prior to going on the ventilator. After the call to his family, he wasn’t sure if he would ever come back alive after that.
“At that time I knew that I was really sick and scared. You are alone and not allowed to have visitors,” he said. “I was scared. They were scared.”
He was able to stay awake and take pictures documenting what he was going through. He said that no one is exempt from this virus as he has seen infants, kids and healthy people die from COVID-19.
“No one is bulletproof,” he said. “I was supposed to be sedated. After the tube came out, my body healed tremendously. My heart came back to normal size, I rejuvenated and healed fast. I healed fast by almost dying.”
James wants to educate all Americans, and particularly the African-American population on the importance of taking precautions about the virus. He says that they are very susceptible to the virus and need to comply with medical precautions and instructions given.
“Fifty one percent of COVID-19 deaths are African-American and that is crazy. They need to be informed,” he says. “It is hard to close a business for four to five weeks, but it is even harder to close a casket forever.”
“We know everyone is scared, even the nurses. A lot of nurses are scared because of the fear of the unknown,” he said. He urges everyone to wear a mask and stay at least six feet away.
“It was found people should be 12 feet away. If someone sneezes ,it [COVID-19] travels up to 27 feet and 48 miles per hour. Someone could have sneezed without wearing a mask and you can get it,” James says.
He says gym equipment alone has over 600 bacteria and viruses. “People need to know that and be careful. Now is a time more than ever to be careful.”
He shared how one of his male friends, who was healthy and also a COVID-19 survivor, was rejected to donate plasma because of his sexual orientation.
“We try to save people and you discriminate between healthy and gay? At a time when we need anything they can’t discriminate,” he said.
His mental health played a big role in James' recovery, as he trained his lungs to breathe again.
“All you can do is turn towards your higher power and have faith. I was depressed. You don't have any family there, you are alone, and the thought of dying by yourself is what stops you mentally. I have always worked hard to get to where I am now. I had to work my butt off because I don't come from a family of money. I took that motivation to keep myself strong while there. You have to learn how to breathe again, walk again. You have to have faith and believe in yourself. I didn't have anyone else to motivate me,” James shares. “You train your lungs, start walking faster and jogging, and now I am back in the gym at home.”
James found purpose in helping people since he was a young kid, but he started questioning this purpose as a nurse when he got sick from COVID-19.
“My grandma had diabetes. I wanted to give her insulin. I knew healthcare is what I was meant to do and I always cared to help people. When this happened, I questioned my purpose. I was a good nurse practitioner and always helped my patients. What is my purpose now? It's advocating and saving tons of lives indirectly by sending a message,” he said.
Currently, he is helping the homeless and retired veterans. He drives around Atlanta giving out masks and food to the homeless.
“I wanted to give them masks and food because it's hard for them as well. I am volunteering and talking with retired vets and retired professional athletes who struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues. It's affecting them, as they are used to being active. When you are used to being active then go to doing nothing, there is an increase in depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse. Anybody you know, take time to call them and tell them you love them. It's the one thing they need to get them through the day, he said.”
In terms of preventive measures, James shares that the Coronavirus can stay on surfaces for up to four hours. He suggests people wipe off delivered boxes outside. He also said people shouldn’t stay outside more than they need to, and to take off their clothes immediately after coming inside. He said it's important to wash hands for 30 second and clean the apartment daily, especially for those living in small apartments.
James is on a mission to save as many lives as possible through telling his story and hopefully making a difference in the lives of others. For more information, visit Instagram: @quawanjames