Dr. Tony Frankson, 67, an American lecturer living on New Providence, took shallow breaths as he detailed his nearly three-week battle with COVID-19 yesterday.
“It cripples you,” said Frankson, who is being treated in Doctors Hospital on Blake Road.
“It breaks you down.”
Frankson was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) on March 28 after testing positive for COVID-19.
The day before, he had tested negative.
“It was done on March 26 and it came back on the 27th,” he said.
“It was negative, but they couldn’t believe that because I was in such bad health and shape. I needed a lot of oxygen and the clinical results did not make sense.”
This led the doctors to perform a second COVID-19 test on Frankson.
In the meantime, he said, they conducted a CAT scan of his chest.
“That really showed them that they were dealing with pneumonia all over my chest and that the test just didn’t make any sense,” Frankson said.
“Before they reviewed the X-ray, they had sent me to one of the wards into a side room and they realized they’d made a big mistake.
“So, they closed off the hospital and got me back into the quarantine unit rapidly.”
As he struggled through breaths, Frankson continued, “They told me that I have something very serious going on.”
He said the doctors “ramped up” the amount of oxygen provided to him.
Later that night, Frankson was transported to Doctors Hospital on Shirley Street.
He said he stayed there until early in the morning on March 29.
“Then, they shuttled me down here (Blake Road) in the ambulance that morning,” Frankson said.
“I was the first to use the unit and the first to use this building here.”
He said he tries to stay active by doing squats and leg exercises while hospitalized.
Frankson was the 14th person to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
He said he battled the virus for two weeks while quarantined in his house.
“I knew I had it, you know,” said Frankson, who has lived in The Bahamas for 11 years, and who was born in Jamaica.
“But I was hoping that being a young 67-year-old and eating healthy and not drinking and not smoking and all of that, I was hoping that I could ride it out like the flu. And so, I was taking care of myself.”
He said he started to have pains in his muscles and lose his ability to taste and smell during his first week of self-quarantine.
“I found it so interesting that I peeled a piece of raw garlic and put it in my mouth and bit it and chewed it up and did not even feel a thing,” he said.
Frankson said things worsened the following week.
He said he became so ill that he started to lose coordination with anything that he was doing.
By midday on March 27, he said he “really couldn’t breathe”.
“That’s when I realized, this is over; this is beyond what I can handle,” Frankson said.
“So, I called the hotline. I called the hospital and I said, ‘I’m coming in.’”
He said he packed a bag and drove himself to PMH.
“You know the front part to go to the entrance of the hospital? I couldn’t even make it up there,” Frankson said.
“When I finally did, they said, ‘Who are you?’
“I said, ‘I’m Dr. Frankson. I’ve called in and I’m here to be taken care of.’
“They said, ‘Oh, we’re expecting you.’ Then, they put me in a wheelchair. First of all, they let me wash my hands…and then they took me down and settled me into the quarantine unit.
“And from there, they gave me oxygen and started to work on me; and here I am today feeling so much better.”
Frankson said he believes he was infected during a medical conference in The Bahamas in early March.
“Students and doctors from the hospital came down on me in droves and we [would] go night and day working and working,” he said.
“I believe one of them was exposed to it and then exposed me.”
However, he said he didn’t immediately feel the effects of the virus.
Not long after the local conference, Frankson said, he traveled through Miami, Florida, to Port of Spain, Trinidad, to conduct research at another conference.
“On the last day of the conference, I started to get a dry cough, but I was feeling fine because we were all doing social distancing,” he said.
Frankson added, “When I got back to Nassau, I still had no big sickness. That was in early March.
“And then, I came home on the Friday and on the Saturday I went to church. I conducted a bible study. I thank God hardly anybody was at church. Everybody was distant away.”
He said he got a fever that Saturday night.
“I called the hotline and explained my travel history to them and explained also what I was doing before I traveled, which is why I really believe I got it right here in The Bahamas from one of those doctors coming from patients straight to me,” Frankson told The Nassau Guardian.
“…I started to have that fever and the hotline said, interestingly, that they don’t think that I qualified to be tested and I must now treat it like a cold.
“So, I told you that I treated it for two weeks, a week and a half, like it was a cold.”
‘Take it seriously’
Frankson warned the public to “not play with this”.
“Please, please, this is not something you can predict,” he said.
“This is out of control. The only tool you have is to watch yourself, watch your symptoms.”
Frankson added, “Take it seriously if you start to develop symptoms and get in touch with the hotline and do everything that you can.
“If you’re worsening, do like I did and call them and tell them you’re coming because this is something that can go slowly and then go rapidly.”
He said while younger people have “a better chance because of their youth”, they should still be careful because some young people have also died from the virus.
Frankson said if the public follows social distancing and stay-at-home orders, then COVID-19 “will eventually die out”.
So far, there have been 29 cases of the virus in The Bahamas.
Five people have died as a result.
The latest victim was prominent Bahamian physician Dr. Judson Eneas, who died on Saturday night.