COVID-19: You don’t want it

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Hank Cherry
James Overstreet

Hank Cherry

I’ve had the COVID virus so I’m going to start this column by saying what I’m going to say at the end of it — COVID-19: You don’t want it.

As I, and the medical people around me, can best figure I caught it on a flight from Charlotte to Detroit. That fits the timeline pretty close. I know I didn’t catch it at the 2020 YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair for a couple of different reasons. 

First, I got there too close to when I got sick. It doesn’t show itself that quick. 

The other reason is because of all the precautions B.A.S.S. took to keep all of us safe before and during the event. We were tested when we arrived for the Northern Swing, and then we were screened daily. We also had to wear masks and practice social distancing. When I say “we” I mean the anglers, the staff, the contractors, the support people and anyone who came on-site. There were no exceptions. Really, they went above and beyond what was required by the federal and local guidelines. They acted responsibly in every way. 

OK, this is how it all unfolded …

I felt OK when I got to the tournament site. On the first practice day, though, I didn’t feel so good. At the time I thought I had a bad case of motion sickness, which wasn’t anything unusual for me. I’ve suffered with it all of my life. It’s pretty much routine for me to puke the first morning I’m on the water, and that’s with medicine. 

But I had a bad headache — migraine, I think — with it. Things finally got so bad I had to come in after just a few hours. I went to bed and slept all day. And I didn’t get in the boat again until the first day of the tournament. I just couldn’t do it. 

I knew I was sick but I didn’t think it was COVID because I didn’t have any trouble breathing, didn’t have a runny nose and my sense of taste and smell was fine. You know, those are the things medical professionals all talk about. I was able to eat, too. Actually I was able to eat through the whole thing. Despite that I did lose 21 pounds in eight days.

That first day of the tournament I was pumped up, and I thought I felt pretty good. As the day wore on, though, I didn’t feel so good. I brought five fish in early. On the second day I just couldn’t finish. I called Trip and said I was coming in, calling it a day and ending my tournament.

That’s something I really didn’t want to do. I’ve not had a good Elite season. I wanted to get my Bassmaster Angler of the Year points up so I could qualify for next year’s Classic that way. If I could do that, it would free up another spot for someone else. But another day on St. Clair just wasn’t going to happen. I was experiencing vertigo along with everything else.

What I mean when I say vertigo is that motion sickness is like you’re on a waterbed. Everything is moving and you feel lightheaded. And you may be nauseated. With vertigo it’s like you’re on a constant merry-go-round. Everything is spinning in a circle. Turning your head is frightening. It’s the worst of the two. 

I packed up and drove home. It’s a 10-hour drive that took me two full days. I won’t justify my driving home by myself. It wasn’t my smartest decision. I know that.

The worst night of all was the one between the two days going home. My head felt hot but my body felt cold. It was scary.

I went so far as to get a bucket of ice and water. I put a cold cloth on my head — like my wife Jaclyn does — and from time to time I put my hand in the cold water. That was my security blanket. I was able to touch and feel something I knew was the real thing. As crazy as that sounds now it was reassuring at the time. I finally went to sleep and got some rest. 

The next day I arrived home later in the afternoon. I can remember Jaclyn and the kids waiting for me but they were at the far end of the house nowhere near me. I was glad of that because by now I was concerned that I did have the virus. I sure didn’t want to pass it to anyone else.

The next day I tested positive. Thanks to Jaclyn and my doctors I’m back to about 90%. I still get tired in the afternoon, but otherwise I’m good to go. In fact, I’m going fishing for the first time tomorrow. I’m taking a friend with me, though, just in case I need help with something. 

After that, when the doctors say it’s OK, I’m going to donate blood with my antibodies in it. Maybe that’ll help someone else.

I do have three weird side effects I want to mention.  

The first has to do with Mountain Dew. For years and years I’ve been a fan of Mountain Dew. I would drink two or three cans of it a day. But now it’s like my taste buds have changed, and it’s not appealing to me.   

The second has to do with milk. I was never a milk drinker. I just didn’t like the taste of it. Well, that’s not true anymore. Now it’s my favorite. It’s about all I drink with every meal no matter what I’m eating. I like it as much as I used to like Mountain Dew.  

The third has to do with tomatoes. I never liked them and didn’t eat them much. But since I’ve gotten better I’ve eaten at least 10 BLTs with big, thick slices of tomatoes on them. That’s more than I’ve eaten in the past 10 years. They’re delicious.

One thing I’m grateful for is that no one else got COVID-19 from me. I think that’s because of the way things were handled. We were careful with my friends and family when I got home. We didn’t hide anything from anyone. We kept our distance — even talking through closed doors — and followed every health recommendation. 

And, I think the reason that no one from the tournament got it is because of the way B.A.S.S. handled things. It made a big difference in the end. It’s been long enough that the danger is all over now. Everyone — the doctors here and B.A.S.S. up there — did their due diligence with contact tracing. I’m confident everything is good. 

Something else I want to say it that Jaclyn is the best. She took care of me all day, every day. And she worked with other anglers and friends to make sure they knew the score. At the same time she looked after our kids. That’s a lot to put on someone. She handled it without one complaint. I smile every time I look at her.

The last thing I want to say is that this is no hoax. I had a bad case of the flu once with a prolonged 104-degree fever. I hallucinated at times. Up to that point it was the sickest I’ve ever been. I know what the flu is like and I know what this virus is like. I’ll take the flu any day of the week over the virus. They aren’t even close to the same thing. The virus does weird things to you.   

So here’s the bottom line: I don’t know what anyone should or shouldn’t do. This thing is so wrapped up in political crap that it’s hard to know what to believe. But I do know that I’ll be following the rules wherever I’m at and no matter what I’m doing. If I don’t do that for myself, I’ll do it out of respect for others. And, I’ll be careful about where I go and what I do.

COVID-19: You don’t want it.