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Janet Broderick is finally feeling well enough to talk about her terrifying experience with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Janet — the older sister of actor Matthew Broderick — shared that she was “close to death” during her first night in the ICU at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after being diagnosed with the contagious respiratory virus.
“I was very, very sick,” Janet, a rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, said in a recent interview with New York Magazine. “I could tell I was actually in big trouble.”
Janet tested positive for COVID-19 in early March after she attended the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where another attendee was diagnosed with the virus, according to a previous statement from her parish.
Janet told NY Mag that during her first night at the hospital, she thought she was going to die, and even began thinking of her funeral.
“I kind of had gone off the cliff — my lungs had to make a decision,” Janet said. “I had pneumonia and water in my lungs. I remember thinking, ‘Calm down and go to sleep.’ I spoke to Jesus, I planned my funeral. I FaceTimed with my children. They say now I looked and sounded like Darth Vader. I was gasping for air.”
But although Janet said she thought she was going to die, she said she was not afraid.
“I was not frightened. But I don’t mean to say I didn’t take it seriously,” she said.
“I realized in a very, very deep and very real way that I had absolutely no control,” she continued, adding that the experience made her remember her mother, who died of cancer, and wanting death “to happen quicker” in the final weeks of her life.
“For a lot of folks, when you know you are going to die, it is painful and uncomfortable and it can seem endless,” she said. “For me, this didn’t last that long; I had about 18 hours.”
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“I think in that period of time, I felt my job was not to struggle against whatever God intended — I thought the struggle would kill me. I was afraid of fear. I knew that fear would hurt me and I knew that it could kill me. It was really important to stay out of that. Religious training gives you this place to go, which is this place of acceptance. I was there.”
After spending a night hardly being able to breathe, Janet said she woke up on her second day in the ICU out of a “fog,” and she “knew it was over and I was out of danger.”
“My oxygen had gone up to about 95 percent, and I had no fever at all. The headache had left. I can’t explain this virus, but it’s not like any feeling or any illness I’ve ever had before in my life,” she recalled.
Janet said that the doctors were stumped at her sudden recovery, and she credited the power of prayer as one of the reasons for the turn around in her health.
“I must have had 200 people praying for me that night,” she said. “I know many people would be very angry to hear that, because you can pray for somebody and they would die. That’s absolutely true. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. But I do know that I had an incredible amount of prayer from so many people.”
Matthew, 57, said in a previous statement on March 14 that the “entire family is grateful for the concern about, and the well wishes for, my sister Janet. I’m happy to say she is feeling much better and is on the road to a full recovery.”
The actor added, “we are all very appreciative for the wonderful care she received from the amazing doctors and nurses at Cedars-Sinai.”
As of Thursday, there are at least 243,729 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 6,164 deaths related to the virus.
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.