Winter Haven Family Holds Tight to Beliefs While Recovering From Coronavirus
by JESSICA WILCOX
Danny Jones is a man of strong faith. The missionary from Winter Haven admits he has gone through a lot of tough times in his life, including heart disease and a frightening bout of spinal meningitis. Still, God has never let him down. The 44-year-old husband and father of three says his faith has helped him stay positive while he, his wife, and all three daughters recover from coronavirus.
Jones spoke with Central Florida Health News on April 16, which marked Day 27 of sickness. He started experiencing symptoms almost immediately after returning from a trip to Israel in mid-March. During his return trip, Jones says his flight was routed through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he spent four hours in line with thousands of other people going through a CDC checkpoint. He thinks this is where he picked up the virus. He was the only one in his group to have a layover in New York.
“Nobody else in my group tested positive,” he says. “Out of all of us who were on the bus and my roommate, I was the only one.”
His symptoms started the night he got home. It started with a headache. Then came the diarrhea and a low-grade fever. That fever soon soared to more than 103 degrees. Then he lost his sense of smell and taste.
“It was completely gone,” he says. “I drank half a bottle of lemon juice, and there was just absolutely no taste at all.”
That Sunday, he went to Bond Clinic Urgent Care in Winter Haven and was tested for flu, strep, and coronavirus. Four days later, he was told his COVID-19 test was positive.
“Right away, I was assigned a healthcare worker from the Department of Health and was interviewed over the phone,” he says.
About the same time, Danny’s wife, Rachel, and their three daughters, ages 10, 13, and 16, started running fevers and experiencing similar symptoms. They also tested positive.
“Truth be told, my wife is a germaphobe,” he says. “She was going through the house with wipes and Lysol. I stayed alone in a room.”
He and his oldest daughter were never in the same room since he returned from his trip, but she still contracted it.
“When they tested positive, my thoughts were, ‘Wow, I gave this to them. Is there something I could have done differently?’ ” he says. “It’s still something that goes through my mind.”
Jones’ health quickly deteriorated in the following days. He was overwhelmed by weakness, a racking cough, and chest pain.
“The cough was terrible,” he says, talking through some lingering coughs. “It felt like someone was inside my head with a sledgehammer trying to bust out. There were times I would cough so hard I would pass out.”
He was admitted to Winter Haven Hospital and diagnosed with secondary bacterial pneumonia. That day, he was one of six people with coronavirus to be admitted to that hospital.
He stayed in the hospital for five days. On the third day, he was given hydroxychloroquine, a drug usually used to treat arthritis and prevent malaria. COVID patients usually get a Z-pack with the drug, but Jones says his heart arrhythmia meant he’d have to forgo the Z-pack.
It wasn’t long after taking the hydroxychloroquine that Jones felt his first bit of relief.
“I remember feeling better immediately, within hours. I took it for five days, and that was the only time since I’ve been back that my fever subsided.”
His wife also was prescribed hydroxychloroquine, and like Jones, she was unable to take the Z-pack. Both are very slowly starting to feel better. Their fevers are relentless, usually lingering at about 102 degrees, and the coughs are still there, but they are gradually regaining strength.
Jones reports that two of his daughters are almost asymptomatic now, but the virus hit his oldest pretty hard. Rachel had taken her to Lakeland Regional Health Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children after severe dehydration left her nearly unable to walk. They spent a few hours at the hospital, and doctors wanted to transport her to an isolation ward in a children’s hospital in Orlando, but the girl and Rachel were too scared.
“She was terrified, and my wife said she wouldn’t leave her there.”
After witnessing what his family has gone through in the past month, Jones says he doesn’t want to see others go through it. One of the blessings that remains in his mind is the kindness and strength of the healthcare professionals who helped him.
“When they were wheeling me in, you could literally see how fearful they were. I was in a low-pressure isolation ward, but none of them seemed bothered by that. They went above and beyond to show me they cared.”
Nurses came, sat, and chatted with him when he was alone. One doctor, in particular, made a lasting impression he won’t soon forget.
“Dr. Nisha Paul came and saw me several times. I was in really rough shape. She came in and grabbed me by the hands. She said, ‘I know you’re a believer. I’m a believer first, and a doctor second.’ She held my hands and prayed for me. That meant a lot.”
Jones says one of the things he wants people to take away from his story is that the doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers out there are putting their own health and the life of their families on the line for others.
“That’s huge,” he says. “I look at them as the heroes.”
Despite his family’s fear and the continued fight for their health, Jones remains steadfast in his faith. He says his family has received thousands of messages of prayer and support from all around the world.
“I’m alive today because of all those prayers that have gone up for me and my family. This is just another opportunity for the Lord to show himself powerful in our lives. And he has.”