Coronavirus victim Paul Russell was a self-confessed conspiracy theorist who thought the virus would “disappear the day after the election”.
Until he caught the killer virus himself.
Now, the long-distance truck driver says, he can’t work anymore. While he survived the virus, it has severely damaged his body, perhaps permanently.
“I’m gonna be on oxygen the rest of my life, according to my doctor,” he says.
Paul admits that he was wrong about coronavirus: “Before I came down with the virus, I was one of those jackasses who thought the virus would disappear the day after the election. I was one of those conspiracy theorists.”
But that all changed in November last year when he was on a 3,000 mile run from Florida back home to Boise, Idaho, via Texas.
“I didn’t know if I was infected with Covid or what,” he told the Idaho Statesman. “My buddy was about an hour behind me. He caught up with me in Twin Falls. … He told me I didn’t look very good at all.”
By the time he was admitted to St. Luke’s Health System hospital, it was touch and go. He says that at one point he believed his was visited by his dead father.
At one point during his two-week intensive care ordeal, a nurse called his wife for him and put her on speaker phone. She told him how much she loved him, “because she didn’t know if I was gonna make it through the night,” he said.
“That was the night I got the visit from my dad,” he added. “My dad’s been gone for about three years.”
Paul believed then-US President Donald Trump when he told a rally in Lumberton, North Carolina, on October 24th. “By the way, on November 4, you won’t hear about [Covid-19] anymore.”
Instead, by mid-November, Paul was in hospital and fighting for his life.
“All these people that are saying that it’s fake, blah blah blah, they’re lying to themselves,” he said.
Luckily, with help from an experimental treatment, Paul survived. But the 63-year-old fears he may never fully recover. “Covid gave me a foggy memory, it gave me…I occasionally have speech problems.”
Scans of Paul’s lungs show severe scarring. Paul says he also suffers from constant pain in several different parts of his body. He also has dizzy spells and his heart races when he gets up to do anything.
Even taking a shower can raise his heart rate to 128 beats per minute – a rate that represents vigorous exercise in a healthy 63-year-old.
Paul also suffers from “what they call ‘Covid foot,’ ” he says. “The bottoms of my feet were cracking, and it felt like I was walking on needles.”
But despite all that, he’s glad to be alive: “All in all, I can’t say enough about how great the staff at St. Luke’s were,” he says.