COVID victim Earl Miller: ‘I wanted to die’
High-profile Benician hit hard
Vallejo Times Herald, by Richard Freedman, December 31, 2020
In his 70 years, Earl Miller survived the repercussions of drug addiction, heart attacks, a stroke, knee replacement, and gastrointestinal surgery.
Never, he said, he did want to die more than from the COVID-19 misery he’s suffered since around Christmas along with his wife, Jane.
“I thought we were done for,” Miller said. “We had it so bad the first week, I thought death would be a better alternative. It’s no joke. My lungs felt like they were going to explode. My eyesight is all messed up. I hurt all over; every bone in my body. I am dizzy and can’t stand up and I wake up completely drenched from a fever. My head felt like it was going to explode. Then there’s the diarrhea, alternating between feeling like throwing up.”
“Every minute,” Miller continued, “I thought I was going to die.”
A colorful longtime Benician spending December at their second home in San Pancho, Mexico, Miller realized all was not well when he developed a “metallic tasting mouth,” accompanied by headaches, runny nose and respiratory distress.
COVID-19 symptoms hit Miller’s wife first. It was Christmas when she got tested “so we had to wait an extra day” for the results, Earl said.
“They told Jane she was positive. Two days later, I came down with exactly the same symptoms. I knew I had it,” said Miller, never one to doubt the seriousness of the virus.
“I did everything not to get it, but we let our guard down for one moment,” Miller said. “For five months, I was so safe. I’ve been scared of this thing since day one. With all my diseases, I thought for sure if I got it I would die and that would be the end of it.”
Unfortunately, the Millers had a visitor from the U.S. for four days.
“On the last day here, he felt sick and went home,” Earl said. “He called and said he tested positive. The next day, Jane came down with it and couldn’t get out of bed. As I said, you want to die. It came on so fast. It’s just the worst.”
Miller compared it to getting the worst possible flu “when everything hurts. Now multiply that times 20 with a headache that’s 10 times worse than a migraine.”
Thanks to intravenous liquids, sleeping pills, pain pills, and breathing inhalers, Miller believed Wednesday that “we are on the mend.”
On Thursday, Miller thought otherwise.
“We took a turn for the worse Wednesday night,” he said on a FaceTime call Thursday morning. “We are still going through it, as it seems we both woke up a few steps backwards this morning.”
During the call from San Pancho, Miller said his chest still hurt and he gets dizzy. That wasn’t the case Wednesday.
“I felt so good, I went swimming,” he said. “My doctor told me, ‘You can’t swim. Water will get into your lungs and you’ll die.’ So I stopped swimming. We can’t even take a shower.”
Miller said his wife felt “75 to 85 percent” better over the weekend but “took a nose dive” and was still asleep early afternoon Thursday.
Miller was last in the Bay Area four months ago, having his knee replaced at Kaiser Permanente Antioch Medical Center.
“Now my knee is the only part of my body not hurting,” Miller said, managing to laugh.
One shining light through the seemingly endless agony: A nurse who Miller called “my angel.”
“It turns out she was a missionary who works with poor Indians in the mountains and has spent the last 11 years giving her time learning to be a nurse and doctor so she can help them,” Miller said. “That’s my new cause. When this is over, I’m going to help her any way I can.”
Miller, founder of the defunct Reach Out Benicia drug counseling nonprofit for youth, returns a handful of times a year to Solano County to visit friends and pursue real estate sales. He and his wife built tourist-based “Roberto’s Bungalows” in San Pancho in 2011. The town of 1,500 is 33 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. They sold the property and recently built a new inn a few miles up the road.
“Here we are in paradise and we can’t enjoy it,” Miller said, acknowledging a lesson in gratitude.
“More than 350,000 died from this, thousands are suffering, and I’m worried about my pool not being 90 degrees,” he said.
Miller said he would get vaccinated as soon as possible if he could have prevented this “feeling that you want to die.”
Those who refuse to wear masks or take other COVID-19 precautions?
“I think it’s a pity. I really do. I think it’s selfish,” Miller said. “I think that somewhere along the lines something went wrong with their mental capacity to love others. It’s about us not spreading and killing someone’s mother, father, grandmother, grandfather or best friend. It’s about saving people’s lives.”
Though Miller can’t celebrate the New Year on the beach with local friends and other “gringos,” he said he’ll be happy to just survive.
“It’s been a rough year,” he said. “I think in 2021 we’ve got to step back and stop hating each other and start loving and caring for each other. I think there’s still time to save lives.”
Again, said Miller, “wear a mask. It doesn’t hurt. Get a funny one. Get one that looks like me.”