Dr. Drew's early COVID-19 symptoms made him think he had leukemia

Dr. Drew Pinsky is opening up about his COVID-19 experience. (Photo: Jason Mendez/Getty Images)
Dr. Drew Pinsky is opening up about his COVID-19 experience. (Photo: Jason Mendez/Getty Images)

Dr. Drew Pinsky infamously dismissed COVID-19 early on, to the point where he later apologized for calling it a "press-induced pandemic" and saying it was comparable to the standard flu.

By late December, his feelings had changed greatly, as he disclosed his own diagnosis of the coronavirus. He's revealed that, when the virus hit him, the symptoms were so severe, he worried it was cancer.

"I had three days of fever and prostration. I was out of it. I had terrible back pain, really that was a striking feature, and three days of fever. I was negative the entire time. I was tested repeatedly with rapid tests and PCR, and on Day 4 — which was — I got sick on Thursday night — Monday morning, I was going in for another PCR, and I laid up all night Sunday going, 'Uh-oh. If this isn’t COVID, what is it?'" Pinsky told Dr. Mehmet Oz on Tuesday's edition of The Dr. Oz Show. "And so my doctor brain jumped into the worst possible thing it could be, and I thought, 'Oh, it's acute lymphocytic leukemia. I'm ready for a bone marrow in the morning. It's gonna be OK.' I was preparing myself for the worst possible thing."

Pinsky's brain was affected in ways other than the fear.

"It felt uncanny to me. That was the word I kept using, it's uncanny, I can't quite describe it," Pinsky said. "It was fatigue, like, I couldn't have this conversation. I would have to lie down after, like, immediately. I was foggy. I had word-finding difficulty. I had a very strange relationship with sequences. If my wife came in the room and said, 'Move this pillow. Sit down and take your socks off.' I literally said to her several times, 'I know you're talking. I have no idea what you just said.' As I got better, I kept telling people, 'This must be what a traumatic brain injury feels like.'"

Dr. Oz, who also said he "misspoke" in early comments minimizing the virus, asked whether Pinsky ever wondered whether he might not get better.

"I was not worrying. Now, if I had gotten to the hospital, I would have been in a different category, and so I would have begun to worry a little bit about it," Pinsky answered, "But the fact that I was able to stay out of the hospital, 99 percent survivability, I was worried about morbidity, not mortality. How much was this going to leave me impaired or take me out of the workforce for a period of time or make me miserable? It was miserable. Don't underestimate how much misery this is causing people.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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