ST. LOUIS — It started with some aches and pains he figured a trip to urgent care and taking pain relievers could treat. James Ross said, when he started coughing, he decided to drive himself to the DePaul Hospital in north St. Louis County.
“The ICU nurse said, 'Who can we call to read your last rights?’ Ross said. “And I said, ‘Last rights? Hey, where am I going? I’m just in here cause I got a cough’. She said, ‘No, you’re going to be here a while. Who can we call to read your last rights?”
From the time he arrived at the hospital, to about two weeks later when he left, Ross said he was whisked from one wheelchair to another and his feet never touched the ground.
“I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and pneumonia,” Ross said.
He spent several days intubated, floating in and out of consciousness. During that time, Ross said he meditated on his faith and received a revelation that assured him he would survive. That, Ross said, prompted his fight to live.
After days on the ventilator in the ICU, Ross was permitted to move to an isolated space for recovery, where he had to gain enough strength to show he could breathe on his own and regain enough strength his legs to walk.
“I started believing I was Bob Gibson pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals at the '68 World Series at Busch Stadium with Jack Buck and Mike Shannon,” Ross said. “I was the pitcher. I was Bob Gibson and I had to pitch to Babe Ruth.”
Ross said he pictured various stories and images in his mind to draw strength. That, coupled with his unwavering faith, gave him courage.
“I had to lie to myself,” Ross said. “I had to fool myself. I had to start believing in myself.”
While he was recovering, Ross said he was surrounded by a strong support staff of nurses who treated him but also made him laugh. He said he sang songs to them, and they kept him informed on what was going on as the virus continued to bear down on the country.
“Everything around you is dying,” Ross said. “Man, it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Ross said he remembered hearing the sounds of sirens and intercom calls as patients around him lost their fight with COVID-19. He said it was heartbreaking and only makes him overwhelmingly thankful that he survived.
“They were just telling me, ‘James, you are so lucky because when you came in, your lungs were this, your lungs were that,’” said.
The day Ross was able to come home, he said his nurses wheeled him out of the hospital singing a Beyonce song to him to repay him for all the songs he sang to them.
“I was on my gurney, just twerking,” Ross said.
Ross is back home, free of COVID-19 and not required to be quarantined, though he said he chooses not to leave his home.
“You know, when God brings you through something like that, you just don’t want to take any chances,” Ross said.
He said he wants everyone, especially the black community, to take the warnings and guidelines from federal, state and local officials seriously.
“It’s real,” Ross said. “I almost died. Take this stuff serious. If you’re not going to take it for yourself, take it from me. I almost died.”
Ross, who runs JROSS-TV, has made a career out of filming and interviewing top celebrities as they come through St. Louis. He turned his passion and dream job into his life’s work, and he says loving people just comes with the territory. After almost losing his life, he said his mission to spread that love is only stronger.
“I’ve always been this way,” Ross said. “But now, my purpose is just more fueled.”