DETROIT – Fighting fires is dangerous work -- but it wasn’t a fire that has sidelined a Detroit firefighter for the past seven months. It was COVID.
Jabari Dew, 47, is sharing his battle to get back on the job and the lessons he learned about the coronavirus along the way.
Dew isn’t afraid of hard work. He was in the military and an accountant before becoming a Detroit firefighter.
“As a health fanatic, the last thing I thought would happen is if I had (COVID), you know, that it would have such a lasting effect on me. Especially not in the ways that it has,” Dew said.
Dew developed a cough in March.
“I thought it was just regular cold symptoms. I remember we had a call in the middle of the night and one of my, I coughed, and one of my coworkers looked at me -- and I told her, ‘Hey. It’s just a cold,’” he said.
It wasn’t a cold.
“I went in March 30 that morning and tested positive and come to find out both myself and my 5-year-old daughter at the time were positive,” he said.
His daughter was asymptomatic but he soon developed chills, headaches, body aches and trouble breathing.
“I didn’t really sleep because I was afraid of, you know, me falling asleep and my lungs -- you could hear them not being as healthy as they should,” he said.
After two weeks the symptoms passed, but Dew’s fight was just beginning. He was tested and his blood oxygen levels were far too low, a lingering consequence of COVID.
He has spent the past seven months working to regain his strength. At the DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, he does intense physical therapy sessions three days a week, four hours at a time.
Morris Reed is his trainer. They focus on the skills Dew needs as a firefighter and fight through the damage COVID has done.
Dew was not vaccinated when he caught COVID. He said if he could go back in time he would have gotten vaccinated. He sees the risk from the virus differently now.
Dew has not yet been cleared to return to work as a firefighter. He’s hoping to get back to work in early December.