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“It was when I was on my hands and knees in the shower that I knew it was time to go to the hospital.”
Burstein, 55, is one of several members of the Moulin Rouge cast diagnosed with COVID-19. (In March, the musical’s lead performer Aaron Tveit revealed he had tested positive.)
The six-time Tony nominee, who lives in New York with his wife Rebecca Luker, 58 and their son Zach, says his symptoms rapidly worsened following the March 12 Broadway shutdown.
“I’d had a fever, migraines, body aches, my hands hurt so much,” he writes. “I lost my sense of taste and smell and had been monitoring the severity of my symptoms by the hour.”
By the time Burstein checked himself into the emergency room on March 22, he was “coughing up blood for two to three days” and hardly able to breathe, he writes.
Matthew Murphy 2019. Moulin Rogue! The Musical
“It felt like there was an 80-pound boy standing straight up on my chest,” he adds.
Burstein details the hectic atmosphere of a New York hospital during the ongoing pandemic, too. He says he spent five days in the COVID unit with a man named José, a father of four who was on a respirator.
“I was surrounded by death and I knew that the longer I stayed in the unit the greater my chances were that eventually it would be me the nurses were talking about,” he recalls.
Burstein says he was given antibiotics and the anti-malaria drug, Hydroxychloroquine, which helped him feel better. Since he lived close to the hospital, doctors let him recuperate at home.
Though he’s on the road to recovery, the actor has a new hurdle to face: his wife Rebecca is starting to show symptoms of the virus, he says.
“She’s not been tested … we are monitoring her closely,” he notes.
As of Monday, there are more than 555,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times. New York has the highest number of confirmed cases, totaling more than 188,000. The true numbers are likely higher due to a lack of coronavirus testing throughout the country.
Still, Burstein noted a glimmer of hope amidst the ongoing pandemic: the healthcare workers who helped save his life.
“They were ridiculously overworked, kind and incredibly smart,” he wrote. “My respect for them knows no bounds.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.