By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MILFORD – The coronavirus came on bit by bit.
“In late March, I got a cough, a hacking cough,” said state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, now recuperating at home from a narrow escape from COVID-19. “I didn’t think a lot about it.”
Then, “I started feeling quite fatigued and lethargic.”
Also suffering from a second cancer bout – the first was in 2016 – he went to Albany Medical Center Thursday, March 26, for routine chemotherapy.
“They always take your vital signs before: I was running a high fever,” he said in an interview Monday, April 27. He was tested for the coronavirus: “The next day, midday, it came back positive. They knew what it was.”
Other members of the state Senate and Assembly have acquired the virus, including state Rep. Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, who represents four Otsego County towns. (At St. Luke’s, Utica, he was taken off a ventilator this week after a month on the machine.)
“I have no idea where I picked it up,” said Seward. He noted one of his staff members – now fine – also tested positive, but, with the state Senate in session, “I didn’t spend much time in the (Oneonta) office.”
The day he tested positive, the senator’s chemo was cancelled. He reported to Albany Med’s emergency room. “Subsequently, I was admitted to the hospital,” he said.
“For a few days in the hospital, I was running a high fever. They gave me Tylenol; it would go down. Then it would go back up. After a few days, the doctors talked to me: that I should go to the ICU.”
He remembers little of what happened after that.
“I have no memory of being on the ventilator,” he said. “I was in an induced coma. I have no memory of that. Only what people have told me. What my family has told me.”
Over two days in the coma, “my numbers improved and they were able to take me off the ventilator. It was a relatively short time. Sometimes, the longer you’re on it, the worse it is.”
Back in a regular hospital room, his fever was gone. At first, he remained on oxygen, “to get my breathing back. By the time I left the hospital, I had been off oxygen for a day or two, walking about my room, anxious to get home.”
Originally expecting a single-day chemo treatment, the senator ended up spending 18 days hospitalized, from March 26 to April 13.
The senator said he agreed to an interview to be transparent to his constituents. A Milford native, Seward has represented the county in Albany for 35 years, announcing after the cancer returned that he will retire at the end of this year.
“It’s important to keep people informed,” he said. “I knew there was a lot of concern.”
For now, there’s “no timetable” for his recuperation. “I’m getting stronger every day,” he said. “For the foreseeable future, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
With what Governor Cuomo’s labeled “the PAUSE,” there are no events at the state Capitol. “It’s an opportunity for me to take advantage of this PAUSE – as it’s called – to regain my strength.”
Meanwhile, he’s working from home, participating in a lot of conference calls.
Last week, his office issued a press release, with Seward asking Governor Cuomo to release the necessary data – declining infection rates, for instance – so the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Region that includes Otsego County could begin preparing to wind down.
There’s also talk of resuming the legislative session – via Zoom. “I’ll be able to participate,” he said.
And he thanked all the people rooting for him.
“I am so thankful to, certainly my family, and for the outpouring of good will and prayers from so many people in this area,” he said. “I’ve been truly blessed with those good wishes and prayers.
“I believe that’s what pulled me through.”