Former journalist recovering from COVID-19 in Norfolk: ‘It is not a hoax’

Norfolk

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — From the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to the destructive waters of Superstorm Sandy, to real estate scams in Queens, Debbie Cohen for eight years covered the stories — big and small — in her hometown of New York City.

Cohen decided it was time for a career change.

She moved to Virginia Beach in 2017 and enrolled in graduate school at Regent University. In the School of Government, she earned two master’s degrees: one has an emphasis in health care policy, the other in national security affairs and cyber security.

(Photo courtesy: Debbie Cohen)

Hampton Roads is a long way from living in the Big Apple, but Cohen enjoyed the family atmosphere at Regent University, swimming off the Oceanfront, kayaking at First Landing State Park, and long walks along the Atlantic Ocean.

The pandemic slowed down her efforts to find a job in her new field, but she did secure some temporary positions that allowed her to work from home.

Earlier this year, she considered getting the potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccine but decided against it because of her history of allergies. Another complication: she was struck by a car while walking in a parking lot along Indian River Road.

(Photo courtesy: Debbie Cohen)

Three weeks ago, Cohen, a friend, and his wife contracted the coronavirus. Cohen and the wife survived but the man was killed by COVID-19.

Cohen spent two weeks at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital where she was treated with the drug Remdesivir. Last week, she was transferred to Consulate Health Norfolk, where she is seen by a doctor three times a week and is visited by a nurse four to five times a week. She said she has COVID-pneumonia, which has left her too weak to even walk. She remains on oxygen, steroids, and antibiotics.

10 On Your Side first introduced Cohen to the public last week when she cried out for help when, in sweltering temperatures, the air conditioning system failed in part of the Consulate Health Care building at 3900 Llewellyn Avenue in Norfolk. Technicians and city officials responded and the problem was corrected, according to the city.

Last week, Cohen said she felt as if COVID-19 is killing her. This week, that fear persists.

“This COVID is real, it really takes you down,” said Cohen in a recorded Zoom interview.

In the interview, Cohen fluffed up her long blonde locks and proceeded to explain how it feels to suffer from pleurisy, which is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the lungs.

“I still feel like I can’t breathe… I’m dying from COVID… I know everybody is praying for me … churches, friends family, and school. It cuts off your breathing and you try to catch your breath and take a breath, but it’s impossible,” she said.

She has advice for the vaccine-hesitant: “Don’t do what I did.”

“I’m going to take the vaccine and I’m advising everyone this is not a hoax. Help our children help your grandchildren,” implored Cohen.

She is also frustrated with how the pandemic has been politicized and the proliferation of conspiracy theories.

“I want to tell everybody this is not a government conspiracy. The vaccine does not have chips in it or fetal tissue,” said Cohen. “It doesn’t matter if you are a liberal, a Libertarian, Republican, or a Democrat, it [the virus] doesn’t discriminate.”

Cohen is waiting for more details on her prognosis for the lung disorder. Until then, she is leaning on loved ones, including a Regent University professor, who have offered prayers.

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