‘I promise everybody it’s real’: Local man recounts experience with COVID-19

Natanya and Adam “Debo” Baker (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – “At first, I never had a bad fever. The highest it got was 102. I came home from work and I felt so weak that I couldn’t move. That day, I couldn’t hardly work because I had no energy. I laid at the house with my legs on the couch with my body on the floor. My wife had to put a shirt on me because I felt so weak. I didn’t know what was going on, and for two days, I was extremely weak and couldn’t do anything. The third day, I had lots of energy. It was like it went away and made me think I was better. I eat the world’s hottest hot sauces, and my wife put it on my food and I couldn’t taste it. I couldn’t taste anything and couldn’t smell anything. So I knew then. We had been studying it pretty hard and knew then that yeah, I’ve got COVID.”

It was the 4th of July when Adam “Debo” Baker, 40, first felt sick. He felt so bad that he decided he should go to the emergency room at Cullman Regional. He was having difficulty breathing. Diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, he was sent home. He was tested for COVID-19 but had to wait for the results. Three days later, he felt worse and found a facility in Arab offering the rapid tests. He soon learned that he did have COVID-19.

“I went home and we quarantined the best we could,” said Baker.

His wife and children did not have the virus so he quarantined on one side of the house while his family stayed on the other.

“About two days later, after that, my wife kept insisting that we go to the hospital,” he said. “She was pushing me pretty hard to do it.”

He continued, “I had to deliver my truck and park it. I had taken my truck and parked it. I’m the only one that drives it and the only one that’s ever in it. Basically, I couldn’t walk. I went to get out of my truck and I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t breathe. Nothing. I called one of my friends and said, ‘My life pretty much depends on you getting me to the hospital in time.’”

The friend got Baker to Cullman Regional where he was admitted and stayed several days. He said his lips and face were turning purple as he arrived at the hospital. He said he was asked if he knew where he had possibly contracted the virus, but he didn’t know.

“I was in that room for five and a half days on oxygen,” he said. “I was having to have oxygen down my nose and my oxygen level was down in the 70s, but my wife said it was lower than that. That’s all I remember because I was incoherent and I didn’t know where I was at.”

He recalled, “I couldn’t breathe! I just couldn’t breathe!”

He described those five days as “pure misery.”

“I thought I was going to die,” he shared. “I had literally done told my family that I love them because I couldn’t breathe. I Facetimed them and I said, ‘I love y’all and just know that just in case.’ I couldn’t even leave the bed. I was so weak that I couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom.”

On the sixth day, Baker said, he told the medical staff, “Just pull the tubes out.” He said he didn’t want to live like that.

The tubes were removed, and, thankfully, Baker was able to sustain his oxygen levels and was allowed to return home to quarantine.

He said of his time at Cullman Regional, “Cullman hospital was wonderful to me. They treated me so well. Those nurses there, they took care of me and they were excellent to me. From me getting there to me leaving, I never had an issue with them. They were just the best people in the whole world. They made me feel comfortable even though I was upset. I was bad upset because I didn’t get to see my little boy for over a month and a half.”

At home, Baker stayed in bed for three weeks and finally tested negative for COVID-19. Negative doesn’t mean he felt better.

“It was terrible! There’s a lot of people who think it’s fake and I’ll have them talk to me and not know,” he said. “I talk to people about it now. They will say, ‘I think it’s fake and when the election is over it will be gone.’ I have to tell them, ‘I guarantee you it’s not fake. It’s not going to be gone when the election is over, I assure you.’”

The medical and physical aspects of COVID have been difficult for Baker, but so has the social aspect of the virus.

He explained, “People think it’s something else. I tell people to wear their mask, and I  will go into Wal-Mart, and everybody in the world knows me, and they will come running up to me and say, ‘I’m not doing what the government says for me to do!’ and I will say, ‘It’s not about that! It’s about keeping people safe so this thing will go away.’” 

Baker urges everyone: “Put it on! When you are in your car, you don’t have to wear it. When you are at home, you don’t have to wear it. Just put it on when you go into a store. It’s helping you and them. I heard this yesterday, a doctor said this, ‘Think about it as wintertime. When your breath comes out of your face, you see it in front of you. That’s still happening now, you just can’t see it.’”

When asked how it makes him feel to hear people say that the virus is a hoax, Baker said, “It makes me mad. It makes me furious. When I’m talking to people and they say it’s not real, I have finally gotten to the point where I just tell them my story. The look on their face. Most people cry. I tell them that it’s absolutely real. I promise everybody it’s real. People are learning the hard way.”

Baker also spoke of the stigma associated with having had COVID-19, saying, “It hurts your feelings. I had a good friend and we normally hug, and she said, ‘I can’t hug you because you’ve had that.’ I also had a business that I wanted to buy a guitar from and they sent me a private message saying they didn’t feel comfortable with me coming to their store. There is a fear in people.”

He explained that once someone tests negative, they are not contagious; however, researchers are still trying to determine if a person can catch COVID-19 again.

What is the worst Baker sees?

“Stomping around Wal-Mart just protesting and making videos saying, ‘Look, I’m not wearing my mask.’ I see it all the time on my (Facebook) feed,” he said. “These people saying they aren’t going to wear their mask and, ‘Look, I am going to Wal-Mart and not wearing my mask on purpose.’ All you are doing is putting other people and yourself at risk.”

When he hears people say, “If you are scared, stay home,” Baker said, “That’s ridiculous. That’s people just being bullies and just being jerks. They are not wanting to help out any. They just want to keep on living life recklessly; that’s what they are doing. People shouldn’t be scared. I went to a restaurant in Madison, and the whole restaurant, almost nobody was wearing a mask. They don’t understand how you contract it. Half these people don’t know if they have it or not. A lot will have mild symptoms or think they don’t have it but are carriers. Then they go visit their elderly grandparents or whatever else. They give it to them and it kills them.”

He added, “I have heard numerous people say, ‘I think they are making these numbers up because my cousin went and stood in line then left and got a letter in the mail saying they were positive.’ Well, they don’t send you letters in the mail. Or, they will say, ‘Oh, the hospitals are making up these numbers because they get money for each case.’ They wouldn’t have sent me home if that were true. Social media, it’s the devil. It’s all propaganda.”

Baker is not exactly sure where he contracted COVID-19.

“I think I might have gotten it at work, but I’m not positive,” he said. “We had been down in Gulf Shores working. It was when I came back from Gulf Shores that all this started happening. I’ve worn masks since this started. I sanitize my hands everywhere I go. I had a severe case of it. I hadn’t been sick for 10 years prior to this.”

He admits that while he was in Gulf Shores working, he did not wear his mask, saying, “I was working and nasty every day and just living life.”

It’s been just short of two months since Baker first felt sick. So, how does he feel now?

“Honestly, like a pile of crap. I don’t have anywhere near the energy I had before. My mental aspect has changed completely. I don’t even feel like the same person anymore. Some days I don’t have the energy to do anything and I still can’t breathe real good. There’s no answer on how long it will be. The answers I ‘ve been given is that it could be a year or a lifetime. It’s scary because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m terrified. I talk to my wife about it every night. I’ve never been this way. I’ve lived in tour buses for years all over and done everything you can think of and this is the one time in my life that I have been helpless.”

The family had to start a GoFundMe to get through. Baker and his wife were both unable to work and they relied on friends and family for meals and support. He has had numerous follow-up doctor visits.

Baker said he has only slept in his bed one night since he tested positive for COVID-19.

“The other time I am on the floor with a fan in front of my face because my body is going so hot and I can’t breathe good. If I walk outside and it’s sunny, I just smother,” he said. “Immediately I will smother and have to get in my truck and run the air conditioner wide open. Even at nighttime when I am driving home, I have the air conditioner wide open. It seems to be a common side effect of it. I know the fatigue is and the loss of smell or taste. It was the best thing when I was in the hospital and my smell and taste came back; my breakfast had grapes and those grapes were the best thing. When I came home, I ate tons of grapes. It was wonderful.”

What does he want people to learn from his story?

“Everyone just needs to wear their damn mask. I don’t understand it. Stay clean and wash your hands. Stay clean and just be positive. My best advice for someone with COVID: watch your lungs like a hawk.”

Baker credits wearing his mask with keeping his wife and children safe.

“100%!” he exclaimed. “If I hadn’t been wearing it, I would have been breathing all over them. You gotta wear it, and I did not leave my room without it.”

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