Acclaimed singer/songwriter and pastor Charles Billingsley never expected that leading up to the release of his new album, I Was Made for This, he’d be in the battle for his life against COVID-19.
Billingsley, who is a teaching pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in early April and spent about three weeks battling the virus, which included a brief hospitalization. Simultaneously, his new album — his first studio project in two years — was released on April 10.
The man of faith never expected to release an album during a pandemic, let alone fall victim to the illness. And now he’s sharing his experience to offer hope and encouragement for those in the midst of the national lockdown.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Billingsley, where he shares about how his bout with COVID-19 impacted his faith in God while near death and in isolation.
Christian Post: How were you exposed to COVID-19?
Billingsley: I really don’t know how I got exposed to it. I really don’t. I take guesses. I was on an airplane in mid-March coming back to Lynchburg and there was a lady in front of me that was really ill and she was coughing a bunch and stuff. But honestly, I don’t know if I got it from her or from just somebody [else].
I came down with a fever on Friday night, March 27, which was my 26th wedding anniversary. Then the fever just sort of progressively got worse through the weekend. Then on Monday, the 30th of March, I went and got tested for the flu and it was negative. So my doctor said, “Well, just for fun. I’ll check you for this coronavirus, but I don’t think you have it. Well, sure enough, two days later on April Fool’s Day of all things, it came back positive.
I wasn’t very concerned. But unfortunately, this thing grabbed hold of me pretty good and my case went from just fevers and aches and pains and headaches to 10 days straight of 103 degree temperature to eventually being in the hospital with my lungs and it just got really, really nasty.
CP: How did the virus progress?
Billingsley: I get texts every day from people who are having symptoms and they want to know “Hey, what’s going on?” Well, for me, it was fever, and then body aches and then really bad headaches. Those three things, really. I never had nausea or anything like that, unless it was a little bit tied to the headache but mainly high fever, 103 degrees for 14 days straight. Then of course, the body aches and the shivers and all that stuff that comes from that. So all I was doing was just taking Tylenol about every four hours; that’s all I knew to do. But then I had this strange sensation in the back of my nose and throat, this kind of this dryness. It’s not like bronchitis or something. In a cold and stuff, you have a lot of liquid and drainage. This was not. This was a dry something and it was just weird.
I was sitting at my house on April 9 in just misery and of course that was 12 days in and my doctor came over and he said, “Hey, man, I I came over because I want to listen to your lungs. Also I got your blood work back that we did a few days ago” and he said, “I’ve never seen anything [like this]. Your blood work is horrible. Your numbers are off the chart. Let me listen to your lungs.” And he took one listen to my lungs. And he said, “I need you to just walk across the room and come back.” I walked across the room, came back and he checked my oxygen and it was at 84 and you’re supposed to go on oxygen at 89. So he said, “You know, buddy, I hate to tell you this, but you need to go to the hospital.” So what was happening was my air, my breathing was getting more and more shallow and I was still dealing with the fever, still dealing with the aches and pains but now it was a breathing issue. And that’s when it gets real serious.
They put me in the hospital just as a precautionary thing. I never had to go on oxygen, thank God. I never had to go on a ventilator, thank God. My doctor looked at my blood work and he said, “Look, if you weren’t in good shape, you’d be dead by now. This is unbelievable. So I had a severe case that I didn’t realize I had.”
CP: While at home were you with your family?
Billingsley: Yeah, my wife. … And here’s the miraculous thing, somehow, someway through three and a half weeks of this mess, my family stayed corona free. I don’t know how; it’s a miracle of God. The highlight of my day, my wife would bring me a buttered bagel and some grapes. I don’t know why but that was the highlight of my day for 24 days and she would come in with her mask and you know she would try to help me all she could and keep my liquids and everything filled up but she was in and out of that room five or six times a day and I don’t know how she didn’t get it but I’m really grateful for her help.
CP: You ended up in the hospital. How was that experience?
Billingsley: The hospital was the worst part. Mainly because the isolation and just wondering what’s next. They really can’t give me anything. I was on that Z pack and then hydroxychloroquine. I had gone through two rounds of that and so they really didn’t have any medicine to give me. They tried seven times to give me an IV and couldn’t do it for some reason. So here I sit in this hospital and all they can do is give me some potassium and Tylenol. That was it.
I was there more just to be on a monitor with my oxygen and there I was in isolation for three days with nobody to talk to and nothing to do except read and worship the Lord.
CP: Spiritually, what’s going on in you? Are you feeling like a supernatural type of situation happening along with this illness?
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law