Heart of Gold
COVID-19 Positive: Alumnus Shares his Story, Blood Plasma to Help Others
On Day 8 after his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jeff Yonkers ’92 ventured out from his home’s basement in Suffolk County on Long Island and set his chair to face the sun with his back away from the house. That way his wife and children wouldn’t be able to see his face. He could shield them from the virus and also from seeing the panic that was setting in.
For the first time since his diagnosis, he was really worried about his health. Even his dog knew something was wrong and kept his distance.
“As I was sitting there my chest was getting very tight, more anxiety than the inability to breathe,” Jeff said. “I was completely freaking out on the inside, but from the outside it looked like I was just catching some sun rays while sitting next to my pup.”
While he had been doing everything right since his diagnosis on March 18, he moved himself into the basement away from his wife, their children and the dog. He ate, slept, watched TV and worked down there. And yet, he worried. He knew from other COVID-19 patients’ journeys that Day 7 and 8 seem to be a turning point—as many people got markedly better or dramatically worse.
“I was so stressed about this day that I thought at times I was going to have a heart attack as my heart was racing and pounding,” he recalled. “I woke up on March 24 and I did feel a little congestion in my throat and lungs, and I was thinking, ‘Okay, this is going to be the day where I am going downhill.’”
But thanks to the unwavering support of his wife and family and a dedicated team of friends and coworkers, he managed to keep his composure, and when he woke up the following morning, he had turned the corner.
“No sweats, no drip, no congestion, no fever, no headache and no chills,” Jeff said. “I felt about 98% back to normal. I felt like the 1,000-pound gorilla came off my chest.”
He doesn’t know where he got infected with the virus and only went to the doctor when his wife and coworkers remarked on how red his face was. When his temperature came back 101.2, they decided he should go to a nearby walk-in clinic.
He described the illness as being like a really bad hangover without the nausea—exhausted, achy, chills, sweats, and he lost his sense of taste and smell for two weeks.
After that turning point on March 25, he finished off his two-week quarantine in a much better state both mentally and physically. He said he is extremely grateful for his family and friends, who helped carry him through this illness.
His advice to others who get diagnosed with COVID-19: “Stay positive, keep in touch with friends, isolate completely, get outside, sit upright and most importantly laugh,” he said. “My friends kept sending me very funny and inappropriate texts, but they really made me laugh.”
Now, he is sharing his story with others to give people hope and to have another story to which they can compare their own experience.
“I think it can also serve as a path or guide for the emotional aspects for the actual people going through it as well as the loved ones caring for them,” he said.
He also traveled to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City to donate four vials of blood to participate in a plasma study of COVID-19 survivors. He found out April 9 that he was approved to donate his antibody rich plasma to help critically ill COVID-19 patients.
“My wife and I like to pay it forward,” he said. “I try to give back because I consider myself to be very lucky. I can donate plasma since I now have the antibodies and do not have to worry about contracting it again. Since I got through this, it’s very important to try to help others who may be worse off. I pray we all get through this quickly.”
Learn more about the college’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.