COVID-19 survivor Tito Jackson fears community is vulnerable
Former City Councilor Tito Jackson’s symptoms started the night of March 14 with a sore throat and dry cough, but quickly progressed to body aches, a sore throat and a fever.
He had suffered through the flu before, but it was nothing like what he was now experiencing.
“It was the worst illness I ever had,” he said. “The body aches and pain — it was the worst, times 10.”
The inflammation in his lungs manifested as pain in his back. But there was pain everywhere in his body.
“It felt like someone was shooting a laser through my ankles and knees,” he said. “Plus, I had difficulty breathing and a headache.”
Jackson had little sleep that night. At that point, he knew there was a strong possibility he was suffering through COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He made the decision to self-quarantine the following day.
On Friday, March 27, Jackson received test results confirming he had, indeed, been infected with the coronavirus.
Fortunately for Jackson, while members of his extended family live with him in his Schuyler Street three-family home, his bedroom is attached to a bathroom, so he didn’t have to leave the confines of his quarters.
“Nobody had to interact with me,” he said. “They just left me food at the door.”
Initially, the pains and body aches were nearly unbearable. As the worst of the symptoms subsided after the first week, though, Jackson began to experience the solitude of quarantine. It was initially difficult, he said, but through phone calls and conference calls, he was able to stay in touch with family and friends.
“One of the things that really helps is when your friends call,” he said. “One of my friends had a birthday toast on Zoom. That kind of thing is really important.”
Staying socially connected, Jackson said, was an important step in maintaining health during his quarantine.
“One of the blessings out of this to really appreciate the blessings of life, your friends and your family,” he said.
Jackson, who says he’ll remain quarantined for another two weeks, said he is spending much of his time reading and practicing meditation.
He also has had to reach out to people with whom he had been in close contact before he began experiencing symptoms, including six people at a birthday party.
One of the most threatening aspects of the coronavirus pandemic is that the pathogen can be spread relatively easily from person to person before the infected party shows symptoms or realizes she or he is infected.
The easy transmission and delay in onset of symptoms has prompted countries and local governments around the globe to issue stay-at-home orders now affecting nearly three billion people — a quarter of the world population.
Although Massachusetts has been under a stay-at-home advisory for more than a week, some Bostonians are still taking to playgrounds and basketball courts around the city in defiance of Mayor Martin Walsh’s order banning use of many such spaces.
Jackson said he hopes people in the community will take the threat of the virus more seriously moving forward.
“I want black people to know and understand that viruses do not profile,” he said. “This virus wants to hurt and harm all of us. Sadly, if we do not take this seriously, it will take us out. This is not a joke. This is not a conspiracy. It’s something that can potentially harm our community.”
He noted that blacks suffer disproportionately from many of the ailments that can lead to COVID-19 fatalities, including high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes.
“Please stay home,” Jackson said. “This is not a vacation. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could pass it on to someone you love and to multiple people in your circle.”
With COVID-19 cases rising exponentially in Massachusetts, Jackson worries that the hospitals in Boston will become overwhelmed, forcing medical professionals to make tough choices about who receives care.
He also worries that people in Boston are not taking it seriously.
“This will sit you down,” he said. “It will lay you out. Sadly, for some people, it will take you out.”