COVID-19: Stories of Pain and Suffering, and Ultimately of Survival

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Kaimi Herron, a bartender Trunk’s in West Hollywood, and a friend of his, Kels Kalu, recently shared on their Facebook pages their experiences with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and invited readers to share them with others. The two young men tell stories of intense pain and suffering, and ultimately recovery, that are inspiring.  Their stories also illustrate the dysfunction of a health care system that leaves the seriously ill reluctant to seek the medical care that they need but can’t afford.

Kelechi (Kels) Kalu’s Story

Kelechi Kalu

I think what scared me most was waking up at 3 a.m., body on fire, and gasping for breath. Four weeks ago, I honestly thought I was going to die. Who knew that one innocent night of heading to my favorite bar (before all the advisories were in place) would lead to one of the most terrifying experiences with an illness—ever?⠀

I was laid off from my job two months before all of the coronavirus hysteria. And with that went my health insurance. So when I started to feel tired several Sunday nights ago, and came down with the sniffles and an upset stomach, I thought to myself: “Go get some ginger ale, water, and bread, and lay your ass down. You’re not sick. You can’t afford to be.”⠀

“Then the nightmare began. A splitting headache. Hellish aches all over. A 104F temperature that wouldn’t go away. Several nights of terrifying fever dreams and night sweats. Days of searing pressure and pain in my chest and shortness of breath. A terrifying night choking back tears while calling one of my closest friends (Terrance DeVaughn) who had seemingly gone through the same symptoms, but in D.C. I didn’t know what to do. And he told me to drink water, take Tylenol, and rest. But the strangest revelation was my death march to my bathroom. I all but collapsed into the sink when I looked in the mirror and saw that the whites of my eyes had turned a deep dark red.⠀

I called the department of health here in Los Angeles, and NO ONE seemed to know what advice to give an uninsured 30-something. I was forwarded to urgent care, who forwarded me to the ER, who (at the time) wasn’t testing many people. Plus, how was I going to get there? I couldn’t take a ride-share (at risk of infecting other people who rode after me). And I couldn’t drive because I could barely move in my own bed. And the thought of non-insurance-covered ambulance ride was less appealing than battling it out on my own. THINK ABOUT THAT…So I suffered in my room, alone—for an entire week …. Read more on Kelechi Kalu’s Facebook page by clicking here.

Kaimi Herron’s Story

Kaimi Herron

Sharing my experience with my Covid19 symptoms that may save a life. It was the last day any WeHo bars could operate. At the end of my shift, which was around 7 p.m. I started feeling nauseous. I told my boss I wasn’t feeling well and asked him if I could leave early. He told me yes, close out and you can go and that he would keep me updated on when we are able to open for service again. That night I went home I still felt a little nauseous. I started getting a headache and feeling very anxious. That night I was tossing and turning in bed and when I finally fell asleep I did.

The next day, my headache became a little more severe and started to feel some body aches. Basically, before being advised not to take Ibuprofen, I took Advil for my headache, which gave me a temporary relief. That night, I knew I was sick, Body aches, headaches then started with the chills in bed. I developed a small dry cough that would come every so often.

So I called the LGBT Center and ask them info to get tested for Covid19. The clerk asked me if I was a patient there. I said yes. He checked my files and told me “you only come here for HIV and STI testing.” I said yeah that’s right. So he told me that I would have to call my physician. I told him that’s the thing, I don’t have one. He said he was sorry, but he couldn’t help me. He asked me if there was anything else he could help me with. I said I “guess not, thanks,” and hung up. Read more on Kaimi Herron’s Facebook page by clicking here.