Jaguars great Tony Boselli shares details of difficult battle with COVID-19

Tony Boselli’s symptoms were mild, at first. A cold with some mild congestion, he thought, but no fever, so no reason to be worried.

The former Jacksonville Jaguars star and Hall of Fame finalist began experiencing them on the night of March 16 after having played golf the previous weekend at Sawgrass Country Club. Two days later, everything started to change. A fever took hold. And then a phone call informed him that he and his wife, Angie, had been around somebody who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Florida Times-Union.

At the advice of his doctor, Tony underwent testing for the novel coronavirus. By March 20, the results came back positive and five short days later he could barely move and felt wheezing in his chest. Subsequent x-rays revealed he had low oxygen levels and a pulmonologist informed him he wouldn’t be leaving the hospital.

“I guess the thought was there’s no way this is how the story is supposed to end here,” Tony told the Times-Union on Thursday. “This is nuts. I never felt like, ‘Poor me, or why me?’ You get sick, it happens. But the fact I was in the hospital with the coronavirus and crazy thoughts were going through my mind, like ‘I can’t believe this is going on.’

“The worst was my second day in ICU when they were upping my oxygen levels. That was probably the lowest, scariest moment. I had no family around me. I can’t remember exactly what the doctor said, something about the machine needing to go to another level for more oxygen if that didn’t work.

“Whatever drugs they were giving me, in combination with the oxygen, it got me to where I needed to be. I never had to find out what that next level was.”

The 10 days that followed put Tony through the medical ringer. He lost 20 pounds, needed to be hooked up to two IVs, was admitted into the ICU on March 25 and not released until Monday.

Angie tested positive for COVID-19 as well. Though they’re both 47 years old, unlike her husband, her symptoms were far less severe — resulting in no fever, no hospitalization and a recovery that is already complete in full.

“For whatever reason, [COVID-19] buried me and didn’t do much to her,” Tony told the Times-Union. “She’s obviously much tougher than I am. She had 7-10 days where she didn’t feel like herself, but her symptoms were mild.”

For many people, COVID-19 symptoms include a fever, dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. But the discrepancy in the Bosellis’ experience underscores part of what’s made identifying and tracking cases so challenging.

Some carriers of the virus will have symptoms deemed not severe enough to warrant testing — especially while testing is not widely available — or be asymptomatic, meaning they do not experience any symptoms at all, but still be contagious and able to pass on the virus to others who may experience far worse outcomes including lung lesions, pneumonia and respiratory complications leading to death.

The novel coronavirus has sickened 234,483 people in the United States as of Thursday afternoon, according to a database maintained by the New York Times, and at least 5,708 people have died in the U.S. alone.

“The reality is the majority of people my age or younger who get it are probably going to be fine,” Tony said. “But look at me, I was healthy with no issues at all and ended up in ICU.

“…I can’t imagine anyone who has underlying medical issues already having to go through what I did [and surviving]. As all of us look at this coronavirus, you have to look at other people and the impact this could have on them. The last thing we want is to put people who are vulnerable at risk. There were people dying in the hospital, so it’s real.

“The thought I would leave with is this: You might be OK, but your neighbour might not be. Try to think of everyone in this situation.”

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