Wellness Wednesday: How the Fitness Habit Helped One Journalist Recover from COVID

My devotion to fitness aided in my recovery.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021

I recognized the gratitude in these words. My exercise teaching experience gave me a whole lot of helping hands when I pulled myself up from post-Intensive Care syndrome following my lengthy hospitalization in 2019. Although my illness pre-dated COVID, I felt a sort of kinship with Jorge Milian’s experience. I wanted to find out more.

Here is what I learned in my research, including a telephone conversation with Jorge a few weeks ago.

Palm Beach Post reporter Jorge Milian

In his coverage of the COVID pandemic’s impact on his beat of Lake Worth Beach and Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Post reporter and journalist Jorge Milian has written tributes to fallen community leaders and other victims of the virus, stories on the verbal attacks on the city’s Central American migrants, and articles on the eviction moratorium. What he never expected to write was a story on his own hellish encounter with COVID-19 at the end of January.

Hellish month

I had a raging fever, my head felt like it was on the verge of exploding and each of the 206 bones in my body ached.

That began around 4-5 weeks of unpleasantness that, at its worst, had me wondering if I would wind up like some of the people I’ve written about since last March in the Palm Beach Post who died after getting COVID-19 (and if would I have time to alert the Post’s editors not to use the headshot that makes me look 20 pounds heavier in my obituary?)

I can joke about it now. But there’s nothing funny about running a high fever for days and feeling like you are trying to breathe under water while your doctor is wondering aloud whether you should check into a hospital – a thought that terrified me even more than the unexplainable nightmares and hallucinations that dogged me for around 10 unrelenting, miserable days and nights.

Walking from one side of the house to the other seemed like a marathon. The worst of it was at night when I would wake up gasping for air, almost as if I had forgotten to breathe.

Fatigue was another big issue. For around two weeks after getting sick, I would sleep for 10 hours then spend the rest of the day feeling like I needed a nap.

My doctor told me I should seriously consider going to the hospital if my oxygen level fell below 90. My oxygen level never dropped under 92, but still low enough for thoughts of ventilators and doctors in space suits to cram my thoughts.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021

Exercise habit

In a recent conversation, Jorge told me that before being bedridden by COVID-19 for 15 days, he had not been sick in his 26 years with The Palm Beach Post. He is an active 61-year-old, a diligent gym-goer (“a little bit of a maniac”), and former runner. He credits his lifetime fitness habit with his quick comeback.

As sick as I got, I still feel kind of lucky. My devotion to fitness aided in my recovery. [Still], it’s only been in the past couple of weeks that I can go for my hour-long bike ride or complete my daily strengthtraining routine without stopping every 15 minutes to catch my breath.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021

His body struggled though what had been comfortable workouts.

When I returned to the gym, it felt like a fever would suddenly rage through my body, heating up like crazy, although my temperature would be normal. But my muscle memory was there to see me though.

Jorge Milian, reporter and journalist

Fitness advice

Jorge is happy to be on the other side of his COVID-19 illness. He is not a long hauler, having been able to resume his full activity routine. And what does he recommend to help others build up their strength?

Find something you like to do and do it. Every day. Consistently. Work up to being active for an hour a day.

Jorge Milian, reporter and journalist

Staying well

Follow the public health recommendations: get vaccinated, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that contracting COVID-19 was no worse than catching the flu, but the virus put this 60-year-old through a physical and mental wringer like I haven’t experienced before.

What I had, you don’t want.

Jorge Milian, Post reporter’s hellish month with COVID-19, The Palm Beach Post, April 10, 2021
Reporter Jorge Milian, photo Thomas Cordy, The Palm Beach Post

How Our Superhero Daughter Saved Our Lives

Superheroes, the comic book characters, have become big box office draws. From Batman to Spider Man, from Wonder Woman to Elastigirl, these modern versions of mythological figures are endowed with special powers — strength, flexibility, the power of flight, extra-sensory perception — that vanquish the super villains. Superheroes make the world a better place.

My husband and I have a special superhero who’s saved our lives in a dramatic way at three critical junctures, not with super powers but by just showing up. Our hero is our daughter.

Our superhero made us parents in Albany

We have one child. She appeared as a little cross on a white stick one January day in 1992, when I was 37 and we’d given up hope of my getting pregnant.

Her birth made us a family. Her childhood brought us joy.

Her persistence, patience, intelligence, and heart helped her emerge into adulthood as the first doctor in our extended family.

Our superhero held our hands in Amsterdam

Our daughter’s birth was my only hospitalization — until May, 5, 2019, when I was struck down by an undiagnosed arterial aneurysm while on vacation in Amsterdam.

Our daughter flew in the next day, along with my sister. They held up my husband while his world was crashing, and our daughter was at my bedside in the ICU for the six frightening weeks.

When I was strong enough to travel back to Florida, it was our daughter who made it possible to transfer to Shands Hospital, whose excellent care has deemed me well-recovered.

Our superhero signed us up for the vaccine in Palm Beach County

This morning, our daughter did it again, by signing my husband and me up to get the coronavirus vaccine.

It’s a Hunger Games scenario in Florida, with millions of people over 65 trying to get a limited supply of vaccine with minimal public health infrastructure and conflicting messaging. I sent the recommended email to the Palm Beach Health Department more than a month ago, finally receiving an acknowledgement a couple of weeks ago, then silence. Now, Governor DeSantis has pulled the rug out from under the county by assigning all vaccines to a grocery store chain which began assigning appointments a week ago in a 6AM web game with a limited door. All appointment were taken while I waited for two hours to get in. It’s been an exhausting week.

This morning, our daughter also logged as she ate her breakfast. And, just minutes before her long day of work, she got access to the site and signed my husband and me up. We receive the first vaccine tomorrow morning and the second one in a month. She’s done it again.

There are superheroes all around us

There are superheroes all around us, in truth. People going out of their way to help their neighbors. First responders. The kid featured in Inauguration Day’s Celebrating America who made $53,000 from her virtual lemonade stand to feed the hungry. Maybe you.

I thank you all.