Coronavirus

CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin’s battle with COVID-19 took her to ‘some very dark places’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRjiq4PSvvo

Sitting in the anchor chair Monday afternoon, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin smiled broadly at the camera.

“Boy, am I glad to be back,” Baldwin said before pausing to take a deep breath. “Let me start with a thank you. Thank you for sending me so much love and prayers.”

Monday marked the longtime anchor’s first day back on the job after spending weeks sidelined as she battled a nasty case of the novel coronavirus, a harrowing experience she told viewers was “relentless and scary and lonely.”

“Covid-19 gave me a beating physically and mentally for two weeks and then I took the third just to recoup,” she said on “CNN Newsroom,” just days after revealing that she was virus free. “I never knew when it would end.”

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Like many public figures who have become infected in recent weeks, Baldwin, 40, has been forthcoming about her diagnosis, posting updates on social media and penning a lengthy essay shedding light on the experience of contracting the potentially deadly virus. Similar first-person accounts have been shared by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, and actress and comedian Ali Wentworth, among others – all of which provide glimpses of the various ways the coronavirus can affect the human body.

For Baldwin, who announced April 3 that she had tested positive, the virus left her with fever, chills and constant body aches and robbed her of her sense of taste and smell. Baldwin is based in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. According to most recent figures, New York has had nearly 292,000 positive cases with more than 22,500 reported deaths.

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“In the evenings, I started a habit of climbing into the bathtub for 45 to 60 minutes just to try to use the hot water to distract my skin from the all-encompassing ache that would begin in my lower extremities – the kind of ache that only two extra-strength Tylenol could eventually dull,” Baldwin wrote in a “coronavirus diary” published on CNN’s website last week.

Before losing her ability to taste or smell, Baldwin recalled that she “kept smelling the acrid ammonia-like odor of jewelry cleaner. Except there wasn’t any jewelry cleaner in sight.”

“By the next morning – wham – I couldn’t taste the salted butter on my toast, and couldn’t catch a whiff of the peppermint in my tea,” she wrote. “Along with my appetite, my energy was also zapped.”

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Most days, Baldwin wrote that she would wake up “soaking wet having sweat through the sheets.” She started to take notice of a “golf-ball sized gland” bulging under her jaw – a sign, she wrote, “that my body was fighting.”

“Over two weeks, the fever, chills, and aches would sometimes leave just long enough to fool me into thinking I was finally recovering,” she wrote. “Then they would revisit me with a vengeance.”

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*We can do hard things.* I’m a gal who needs tangible progress. I can get the sh*t knocked out of me— but then little by little, I know that I will recover. The tricky thing with #covid19 is… you think you’re improving and then your body gives you the 🖕🏼. Last night turned out to be my worst so far — aches, chills, highest fever I’ve had. Tears. It wasn’t pretty. But I woke up this morning after a monster night sleep (the length of sleep I don’t think I’ve had since junior high school) feeling rested and at peace. My husband (who thus far has proven to be Superman) brought me our little routine of toast and tea — neither of which I can smell or taste — and I sat here solo just brimming with gratitude. This will all be over soon enough. I’ll go back to joining the rest of you in zoom calls and virtual work outs 💦 and wondering when this will all end and what the net effect of it all will be. (That teachers and nurses need a serious RAISE.) But in the meantime, this past week I have heard from THOUSANDS of you. And in my lowest moments with this thing, what would keep me from completely spinning out, would be reading notes and texts and comments from you. Growing up in the South… the thing my mom would always be yammering to us kids: BE KIND. Turns out — it’s been YOUR kindness to me that has been 100% the most overwhelming part of this experience. And I just want to say from the bottom of my heart: thank you. ♥️ #community #kindness #gratitude #effcovid19 #nyc

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The infection also took an emotional toll as Baldwin was cut off from work and her husband, and “left to experience the virus firsthand all by myself. Like so many others.”

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Nights, she wrote, were the worst.

“I went to some very dark places,” she wrote, adding that, “under the influence of coronavirus, as each day came to a close, I would often cry, unable to stave off the sense of dread and isolation I felt about what was to come.”

At one point, things became so bad that Baldwin’s husband, who had been taking care of her with limited contact, risked exposing himself to the virus to comfort her.

“He hated to see me suffer and he couldn’t not take care of me,” she wrote. “He began to hold me in those darker moments and let me cry, whispering: ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’ “

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Even that small amount of human contact was “restorative beyond measure,” Baldwin wrote, noting that her husband has yet to show any symptoms.

Still, despite her ordeal, Baldwin considers herself “one of the lucky ones.”

“I never struggled to breathe,” she wrote. “Even though my body constantly gave me the middle finger, my lungs did not.”

And there was a more positive side to her illness: the outpouring of support she received after going public with the news.

“I realized that sharing my own vulnerability with others online and receiving positive energy and well-wishes back brings me the gift of connection,” she wrote. “I quickly discovered how grateful I was to all of these people showing me love. It didn’t take long for me to learn to lean in and receive it. In my darker moments, I would log on to Instagram just to be lifted up by love.”

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On this rainy NYC Monday… I wanted to share with you my news: I THINK I’VE NEARLY BATTLED THIS BEAST. 🦠 🤞🏻 I snapped this shot of myself on Easter Sunday to mark the first day (on Day 10) in which I started feeling shades of myself. 💪🏼To mark this occasion, I put on actual sneakers and sunglasses to remember what it feels like to actually go OUT, as in leave my apartment, as in feel normal. (Obviously I didn’t but I told myself: “Soon enough, self. Soon enough.”) I haven’t taken Tylenol for the body aches in 36 hours… and my chief complaint right now is simply the remnants of a cough and what feels like a head cold. I am still sleeping 10 hours at night battling this thing. I still can’t fully taste or smell… but I caught just the slightest whiff of peppermint in my tea this morning. #progress My appetite has been small… toast, soup, tea… for the day. But I’m starting to feel curious about food again — a good sign. One of my friends whose family members had coronavirus used the best metaphor: “It just felt like their bodies were at the last rinse of a wash cycle. Like in a washing machine going hard fighting this thing. But then it stopped and they felt like clean clothes.” Y’all, I think I’m just a *few days away* from that full feeling… and I CANNOT FREAKING WAIT. Thank you again for your ❤️ and 🙏🏼. It massively helped. I’m. Almost. There. #coronavirus #cleanclothes #battle #nearvictory #rollercoaster #effcovid

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On Monday, as Baldwin acknowledged the efforts of health-care workers and scientists at the top of her show, she again took time to thank those who reached out to her while she was sick.

“Sharing your kindness and generosity with me through texts and emails and a lot of DMs on Instagram was the biggest gift I unexpectedly received these last few weeks,” she said. “It showed me how even when the world stops and takes a collective breath, we are all capable of showing up for one another.”

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