NEW YORK CITY – A New York City corrections officer who is battling COVID-19 says he believed he could die.
The man, who is related to KSAT12’s Deven Clarke, says it’s the worst illness he’s ever experienced.
In just nine days, Jamal Charles -- who has no underlying medical conditions, is in his mid 30s and is 6 feet, 4 inches tall -- dropped from 250 pounds to 217 pounds. Right now, though, weight loss is at the bottom of his list of concerns.
“It felt like my throat, like my lungs, everything had tightened up,” Charles said. “You get cold bumps all over you, but you’re sweating profusely.”
Charles said it all started when he began to feel tired at a work training session. He initially assumed it was because of a poor sleep, but he now believes it was the beginning of COVID-19’s symptoms.
“I felt so tired I couldn’t stay up in the training,” Charles said.
He believes he contracted the novel coronavirus inside of Rikers Island Jail, where he works. Because he is an officer, he was prioritized and able to get the COVID-19 test, which came back positive.
He cites very unsanitary conditions in the jail and said he knows of at least two co-workers who have already died of COVID-19.
“My spine feels like it’s broken ... Like, my whole body is in excruciating,” Charles said.
Charles also said when he’s getting ready to go to sleep, he gets a strange blissful feeling that turns into a miserable dizziness when he stands.
“You want to lay down, but the more you lay down, the sicker you get. But once you stand up, the room starts spinning,” Charles said.
His mother wasn’t tested, but days after he began to feel sick, she did too.
Aside from concerns for his mother, who is in her 60s, the father of two young sons says one of the hardest parts of dealing with the virus is being forced to avoid his family.
“I’m very attached to my kids,” Charles said.
He’s praying he and his mother recover. He’s also praying his father, who has become their caretaker, doesn’t contract it.
Charles now has a message for the world.
“Stay away from people. Don’t hug. Don’t handshake. Just let this thing blow over, please. It’s serious,” Charles said.