A Westchester filmmaker contracted novel coronavirus and did what he does best: He made a video about it. William Dickerson, a 41-year-old Yonkers native and director of the award-winning indie film No Alternative, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 26. What he did next was his way of providing people with information on the disease as both a warning and to help those who share his experience.
“I am recording this because the best information I’ve gotten on this virus thus far, that has helped me through my experience, has come from the people who have COVID-19 and have shared their experience,” explains Dickerson in a post on his website. “I’m a filmmaker and as a filmmaker I know that some of the scariest things we put on screen are mysterious.”
Throughout both the post and the video, Dickerson runs through a timeline of his symptoms. Over the course of about two weeks the filmmaker experienced a list of symptoms including a mild runny nose, a slight tickle in the back of his throat, a dry cough, diarrhea, and a tightness in his chest that “felt like there was a rope tied around my chest that was slowly becoming more and more taut.”
However, he did not have a fever.
“I had to go to great lengths to get a test because I did not have a fever. Most of the time, you can’t get a test if you do not have a fever. But it turns out fever is not a sure sign of COVID-19. It is a very common sign, but it is not a prerequisite,” explains Dickerson.
Dickerson was still recovering nearly six weeks after he first exhibited symptoms. Toward the end of this time period, he actually experienced two relapses about a week and half apart.
“The first one was very bad; particularly the muscle aches and chest tightness, then the same symptoms, but a lot milder, though accompanied by extreme exhaustion,” he says. “It was very, very minor. But, now these types of ailments — or hints of ailments — scare me. There is a sense of paranoia that takes over as you’re going through this.”
This past week, Dickerson tested negative for COVID-19, meaning the virus finally left his system. But the journey to recovery wasn’t an easy one.
“It’s important for people to know that it’s a long haul, because the time it takes to endure this illness is perhaps the worst part. Multiply the time frame of the worst flu you’ve ever had by 4 or 5 and that’s what you should expect with COVID-19,” he says.
Since posting, Dickerson’s video has been watched by more than 50,000 people. He’s received many responses from people relating their symptoms to his, explaining they did not seek medical attention because they didn’t think it was coronavirus. According to Dickerson, many of these same people later tested positive.
He explains that it was the personal accounts of other survivors that helped him the most during the experience, encouraging him to make his own video. These individual stories both provided comfort and helped him to better self-diagnose at a time when there is an alarming lack of testing available.
Ultimately, one of this video’s biggest takeaways is to take the virus, its symptoms, and any precautions as seriously as possible. It’s an eye-opening experience to be diagnosed with an illness that is “currently the nation’s leading cause of death” with no known treatment.
“I have no idea how I contracted the virus; in fact, I wasn’t going out much and was conscious of keeping my hands clean and also wearing a mask before wearing masks had become normal. But I still contracted it,” he says.