COVID-19 "got" CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin and now she's sharing details of just how "damn sick" she was. But it wasn't all bad: She found clarity about the things that really matter and a renewed sense of connection to family, friends and community.
Getting there was two weeks of hell, Baldwin said in a personal essay posted on CNN on Sunday, one of a series from CNN's staff about living with and covering the global pandemic.
Baldwin announced she had tested positive and started feeling symptoms in early April, joining CNN anchor Chris Cuomo in coronavirus misery.
Cuomo has continued to anchor his evening show from his basement although he has been sidelined occasionally by brutal symptoms. His wife, Cristina Cuomo, said she is feeling better after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last week.
Baldwin's essay was illustrated with Instagram pictures of Baldwin during her illness, looking glum and exasperated, even when she had her pug dog Pugsley by her side.
For Baldwin, who anchors the 2-4 p.m. edition of "CNN Newsroom," it was hard to cope with the melancholy and isolation, even from her husband in the same New York apartment. He didn't get sick ("knock on wood," she said), despite many hugs of comfort during the times she went to "very dark places."
"These simple acts of connecting with me and hugging me were restorative beyond measure. The isolation might be worse than the body aches," she wrote.
The physical pain was so bad she had to take long, nightly hot baths to distract her from her own aching body. Then there were the nightly fever sweats, a pervasive sense of dread, the crying jags and the lack of interest in food she could no longer taste or smell.
Worst were the moments when her symptoms abated long enough to fool her into thinking she was recovering – only to have them revisit with a vengeance. "I never knew when it would end. It was relentless, scary, and lonely," Baldwin wrote.
Still, she was lucky, she said. The virus didn't take "suffocating hold of my lungs" the way it has with thousands of other patients. She felt grateful she didn't add to the stress of overwhelmed doctors and nurses and in hospital emergency rooms.
"And most of all I am grateful for the reminders this virus provided: First, that clarity comes from being quiet and listening to our feelings. And second, that connection is more vital to our health and happiness than we might care to admit," she wrote.
Everyone who is quarantined at home, whether sick or not, has been forced to sit still without distraction, she wrote. "The clarity this can bring is more illuminating than anything I could have uncovered in my normally busy, 'full' life. When I was sick and my body came to a screeching halt, I stopped doing and started really feeling."
And people responded, in messages and on social media, she said. She found herself logging on to Instagram to feel better.
"I realized that sharing my own vulnerability with others online and receiving positive energy and well-wishes back brings me the gift of connection. I quickly discovered how grateful I was to all of these people showing me love."
So to hell with COVID but also a thank you of sorts, she concluded.
"I wouldn't wish this virus upon anyone, but I hope as my smell and taste and some sense of normalcy start to return, that I will also hold onto the clarity and connection I found while I was so damn sick."