‘You have got to take this seriously’
AFTER a nightmare fortnight during which they could barely stand, former Voice cartoonist Jason Chatfield and wife Sophie have recovered from Covid-19.
Chatfield says he’s had all sorts of viruses, bad reactions to medicine and gnarly surgeries, but none compared to the coronavirus.
The former Perth lad moved to New York in 2014 and his new home is pandemic central.
Covid-19 has already overtaken heart disease and cancer as a killer, and in New York the toll is even more grim: The virus has killed one in every 671 New Yorkers.
If WA had the same infection rate as the Big Apple, there would be more than 43,000 positive cases of Coronavirus; we’ve had 550. There would be 3850 deaths; we’ve had 8.
When things were getting bad the Chatfields escaped from New York to a farmhouse in Oklahoma.
A week after arriving, the cartoonist got sick.
Tingling joints led to a bad fever. By day three he couldn’t control the shaking, and on day four he could barely stand. He got tested on day seven. On day nine, too weak to shower or even change the shirt he’d been wearing since day one, the test came back positive for coronavirus.
“I’m going to die in a local basketball stadium,” he thought.
He says his lungs felt like they were filled with flour and his breathing sounded like Coco Pops crackling. Sophie nursed him through, and when she got sick, he returned the favour.
Chatfield tells us he was stuck lying down for “at least a week. There is this very strange warped way the world looks when you stand up for more than a few minutes at a time. I had to time it so I would have enough energy to pee once my energy had built back up from the last time I got up to pee.”
Gloving up Recovered now and back in New York, he’s still being very careful, gloving up and wearing a mask on his rare trips outside. There’s a lot of unknowns about whether you can get reinfected, and even if he is immune he doesn’t want to pass virus cells around some other way like he’s a walking subway handrail.
“We take the dog out twice a day and the streets are pretty much empty,” he says. “It’s eerie and with the addition of a late spring, it’s grey, cold and grim. There are a lot of piles of furniture stacking up on the sidewalk – some from young college students pulling stumps and going back to live with their parents, and others, sadly, from dead tenants.
“My elderly neighbours have lived here their whole lives and seen everything from 9/11 to Hurricane Sandy… they said they’ve never seen anything this bad, ever.”
He says he’s been chatting with family back in Perth and Melbourne and is relieved it’s been mild here, so far.
“There will definitely be a second spike once you reopen – it’s guaranteed,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that everything has to reopen so soon there, but I’m impressed with how unscathed Perth has been by this.
“I worry that people are being very cocky, and even those who have had the virus are walking around like they’re immune. There’s no evidence that you’re immune once you’ve had it.”
Chatfield says he hopes his comic encourages people to take the pandemic seriously. While the stats show the vast majority of people get a “mild” version and some people are fine, the bad end of “mild” can still be worse than any flu.
“People should respect that it isn’t just about them getting sick; it’s about their neighbours and friends in the community who are more at risk than they are.”
on social media saying they just want to get the illness to get it over with so they’re immune. After a fortnight of hellish sickness, he says: Don’t.
“1: There’s no guarantee of immunity.
“2: Trying to get it on purpose is impossibly dumb.
“3: Most importantly, it can kill you. It isn’t just like the flu. The reason I made the diary was to share with people that this thing is no bullshit – it can kill perfectly healthy 30-somethings.
“You’re not impervious just because you’re young and healthy. I’m sad to have lost people I know to this disease, and the only way I know how to help is to draw cartoons to share my experience and maybe inform people who are having symptoms, and warn people who aren’t.”
His cartoon diary is up at jasonchatfield.com/coronavirus