Rep. Ted James on his battle with coronavirus: ‘I made up in my mind that I did not want to fight anymore’

Rep. Ted James was hospitalized with COVID-19 and is now recovering at home.
Rep. Ted James was hospitalized with COVID-19 and is now recovering at home.(Rep. Ted James)
Updated: Apr. 8, 2020 at 5:49 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Rep. Edward James, better known as Ted James, is finally emerging from the fight of his life, the fight with the coronavirus. He’s now back home after COVID-19 nearly claimed his life.

“I made up in my mind that I did not want to fight anymore,” said James. “When I couldn’t breathe on my own, there was a point in time I kept telling them, ‘I’m not going to make it, like, I’m not going to make it,’” said James.

LOUISIANA RECOVERS: See more stories of recovery from around the state

For nearly a decade, Baton Rouge has grown to know James as a state legislator. He’s an active, 38-year-old who works out daily and settled for a run around the lakes Sunday, March 22. The following day, the first of the coronavirus symptoms hit him.

“Woke up with a 102° fever that Monday,” said James.

He was tested that same day. His temperature did not dip under 100° for several days. He says he took Tylenol around the clock, drank lots of fluids, and immediately quarantined himself. James says he knew in his heart he had it.

“I knew once the fever started to kick in, but the shortness of breath is what really got my attention,” said James.

Test results confirmed a positive by Thursday that same week. By Saturday, he says friends were dropping food outside his home, but he didn’t even have it in him to get off the couch and make it to the door. Finally on Sunday, he drove himself to Baton Rouge General. He was immediately placed on oxygen because he could not breathe and was admitted to the hospital.

“The same fighter that you guys have grown to know, unfortunately I wasn’t that guy in the hospital. That Sunday, going into Monday, Tuesday, I wouldn’t eat. Outside the IVs and the medicine, that was it. I wouldn’t do anything on my own to where I felt like I was fighting back COVID. I had given up,” said James. “The mental aspect is what really got to me. It got to the point where I was given Xanax because I couldn’t sleep.”

Guess who gave him the strength to keep fighting? The men and women on the front lines, the nurses who went into “comfort mode” rather than medical mode.

“They literally held my hand and pushed me through this because there were times where I kept saying, ‘I’m not going to make it through this.’ I could just feel my chest. I could feel that with every breath, like you don’t think about it, but every breath I had to sit there and really think about something as simple as breathing,” said James. “I literally had to make the decision in the hospital that I was going to go on.”

James used a handheld breathing exercise device that has measurements on it from 0 to 4,000. James could not even get it up to 500 in the hospital, meaning he was having great difficulty breathing.

By Thursday, April 2, he was breathing on his own enough to finally be discharged. Now at home, he says he has been symptom-free for a few days, his breathing is great, and he has no fever or coughing. The father of a beautiful little girl says he hasn’t even seen his own daughter since March 22 in order to keep her safe. This is basically his second lease on life.

“Eighteen days ago, I would not have imagined that COVID would take over my life,” said James.

The representative says he does not have any underlying health conditions.

“I don’t have any heart issues, don’t have issues with diabetes. I sit here today, 18 days later, still not knowing how I contracted it,” said James.

It’s why his message to the public is simple.

“Take this thing seriously. Look, this can attack any one of us. There’s no age discrimination here. There are no race disparities. This can attack anyone,” said James. “Don’t think you can’t be impacted by COVID because every one of us, as long as we are out and about, not practicing social distancing, we’re opening ourselves up for a potential positive case, so I don’t want to hear about, read about any of my friends, anybody having to experience what I experienced.”

He’s hoping as a 38-year-old black, active, healthy man, he can serve as proof that the coronavirus can cripple anyone. But he found the will to pull through and now, he wants his story to resonate with you.

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