‘This is not a hoax’: Man who beat COVID-19 urges Rhode Islanders to take it seriously

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Paul Ferns’ life changed drastically when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in the spring.

Ferns, 50, said he began experiencing symptoms in late March, but at the time, he said he couldn’t get tested. He decided to call his doctor who told him to self-isolate, which he did.

But nine days later, his condition took a turn for the worse.

“I woke up and collapsed because I couldn’t breathe due to double-pneumonia, which ultimately was a result of the COVID,” he recalled, adding that he was admitted to Kent Hospital due to how severe his symptoms were.

“I was there for nine days before I was discharged,” he continued. “The first three days in the hospital were very, very scary. It was a close call.”

Ferns said after returning home from the hospital, he found himself there again due to another medical complication he had no idea about.

Doctors told him there was a problem with his gallbladder, which was essentially heightened by COVID-19. 

“The doctor said, ‘While your body was fighting COVID, it forgot about your gallbladder and it literally died inside of you, and it was dead when we got in there.'”

He said he had to get emergency surgery, which kept him in the hospital for another several days. 

Ferns said he’s living with a new perspective since beating the virus.

“I feel like I’m in the bonus round,” Ferns said of his life. “Everything since April 14, since I was discharged from Kent Hospital, has been a bonus to me. It’s almost like I shouldn’t be here.”

As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to climb, he has what he’s calling a public service announcement for everyone who isn’t taking the virus seriously.

“I have no political motivation, I have no financial motivation to be here to talk about my story, other than to warn people that this is not a hoax, far from it,” Ferns said “If people want to question the data, that the data is not accurate, I understand that, but in terms of the presence of COVID in our society, in our country and in the world, it does exist.”

He hopes by sharing his experience, it will prove to those who are skeptical that the virus and its impacts are real.

“It effects everybody differently, so if you can avoid it, that’s what I’m asking people to do,” he said. “I really take the time to be present and I stop worrying about the small stuff because I was in a position, or a point in my life this year, where I realized, ‘Wow, it just doesn’t matter.’ Your health matters, your family’s health matters, your friends’ health matters, our community’s health matters.”

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