He’s special to me. He’s never met a stranger. He finds humor in EVERYTHING. He’s known to answer the phone by saying “Joe’s Pool Hall- yo dime yo time!”. He loves to play Spades. He sings in the choir, loves his church, drives people to the polls for every election and adores every child who rides his school bus. He never ends a phone call with goodbye; it’s always “see ya”. He is amongst millions who have cardiovascular disease; he’s a 67-year-old heart failure patient who has diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure. He is the youngest of Tiny and Ella Jenkins’ five kids. He is a brother to Mary, Gloria, Joyce and the late George Jenkins. He’s a husband to Silvana. He’s a father to Damion, Harold, Jourdan, Ari and me. He is my daddy and he is a COVID19 survivor who beat the odds.
I’ll never forget getting the call a few weeks ago that he was short of breath, disoriented and running a 102-degree fever. My heart raced as I knew this couldn’t be good. My dad was admitted immediately. For the next few days we would all pile on the phone at least three times a day to get the most recent update. We would cry and then wait. Cry and then wait some more. As one day turned to two which would eventually turn to five before we would get an answer on the outcomes of his COVID19/Coronavirus test results. Things would get darker before we would see any light. It was torture. We would eventually get the call that he may soon need to be intubated and placed on a ventilator, but there wasn’t one available at the moment. He also needed a spot in the ICU which there was none. Thank God for a medical staff at Phoebe Putney who, although beat down from the onslaught of critically ill patients, would move mountains to make sure every patient had what they needed. But what they couldn’t give him was us- his family. It hurt knowing that he was alone. This virus is isolating leaving the threat of death looming over the heads of so many who, though hospitalized, can’t receive visits from their families. Things were dire and grim. But even with all the odds stacked against him, COVID19 was no match for my father. By God’s grace, he lived.
It was beautiful watching Lyman, Kennedy, Bryan, McKenzie and Jamie’s grandfather roll out of the hospital to the cheers of doctors, nurses, hospital staff and into the arms of a wife who could finally breathe. Harold Jenkins is my dad and he never ceases to amaze me.
Today Is the last day of National Minority Health Month, and in honor of my father, you should know that black people are suffering at some of the highest rates from COVID19 for three reasons: (1) We’re more likely to be exposed to COVID19 because so many of us work in roles that are considered to be essential including healthcare and service industries. (2) We have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions and (3) we still have less access to health care.