An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

N.J. Guardsmen share experience battling COVID-19

  • Published
  • By 108th Wing
  • 108th Wing

Two New Jersey Air National Guardsmen with the 108th Wing, here, describe their road to recovery after receiving a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

Both accounts show that symptoms, the degree of illness and the length of recovery vary with each person. 

Guardsman #1

My initial symptoms were that of a severe sinus cold, sinus headache, postnasal drip and fatigue.

On day five, my condition worsened, body fatigue increased “significantly”. I experienced loss of taste, loss of appetite, fever, severe chills and body aches. I suspected I had the flu at this point.

On day nine, I had no improvement in my condition. By mid-day, I woke from a nap and noticed a change in my breathing. Pain throughout my body had also intensified. I realized this was not a case of the flu, I suspected I had COVID-19. My wife took me to a local urgent care for help. We were denied entrance. We then went to our local hospital. Sadly, I said good-bye to my wife, thinking I would never see her again.

The staff admitted me and moved me to their step down ICU ward. I had a fever of 103 degrees. My oxygen saturation test was mid to high 70’s, (below 80 is life threatening to your internal organs). A nurse gave me a test, to confirm if I had COVID.

Once the results from the test arrived, I was moved to the COVID ward. As they moved me, I noticed the walls and ceilings were completely covered in plastic and everyone wore special protective gear. I was now in total isolation. The entrance to my room was tasking for my caregivers. They had to don so much protective gear, every time they entered and exited my room.

The Remdesivir treatment was started via IV with a host of other medicines to help fight the infection in my lungs. The pain throughout my body was terrible. I was given morphine but it was stopped and ice became my friend. Bags and bags of ice were used to help with the pain throughout my body. I continued to have breathing issues and hated that oxygen was being pushed into my nose. I struggled to make my lungs work, but it was very difficult. I thought for sure I was going to have a ventilator put on me.

At one point, my pulmonary doctor came in and I asked him if I was going to die?  He told me that everything is being done to give me the best chance to fight the infection in my lungs. . He told me to stay on my stomach as much as possible. This allows your lungs to heal faster, so I did just that for as long as I could each day.

On my sixth day in the hospital, I was feeling better. The COVID treatment was working. I had lost 18 pounds, my body aches and head cold issues were gone. I remained super weak and barely able to walk. On my seventh day in the hospital, I was released to continue my recovery at home.

It took a solid six months and a lot of effort to get back to my old self again. Now, after ten months, I am a recovered COVID patient. I owe my life to the great staff at Community Medical Center in Toms River, to my wife, my family and friends. I could not have survived without their prayers and words of encouragement.

In conclusion, I am one of the lucky people who survived to write about it. This virus is real, the fight is scary and the recovery is long. –Anonymous 

Guardsman #2

It all started with Rose. I met her at the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home, and she loved having a chaplain visit.

This sweet 85-year old was battling COVID-19, but that didn’t stop her from standing and giving me a big long hug. All the while I was thinking, “I am definitely getting COVID,” and I did! 

The head nurse at Paramus told me to get tested for the virus as soon as possible. Fortunately, this was my second to last day on orders. The test returned positive, but I wasn’t worried because I felt fine; in fact, the day before I had run 20 miles in preparation for an upcoming marathon. That would be the last day that I would feel fine for a long time.

First the headache, then the chills, then came the body aches, but eventually my whole body began shutting down. I began sleeping almost all the time, and after seven days, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything. It was still another long seven days before I felt any better or could eat anything.

Did I regret participating in the mission? I knew going into the mission, that I would probably get the virus because my job as a chaplain was to minister to the people in the nursing homes and to minister to the other military personnel who were working at the morgues. Both of these places were vivid reminders of the heavy COVID death toll.

Even though I was sick, I knew I would have happily done it again. I had the privilege of serving God and the military and my fellow citizens by being a part of the mission.

If I had to do over again, would I let Rose hug me?

Yes, for it is my privilege to serve those who are weak and lonely. After experiencing the virus, however, I am amazed that people choose not to get the vaccine; that they would experience that kind of sickness for any reason other than Rose.

I’m thankful that I have the vaccine now, so without the fear of getting or spreading the virus, I can continue to minister to people like Rose. –Capt. Samuel Gage, Chaplain

EDITOR'S NOTE: The name of the veteran's home resident was changed to comply with privacy laws. Additionally, per the Department of the Air Force vaccine implementation guidelines, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members have until Dec. 2 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-does vaccine.