Broadway star Danny Burstein details his coronavirus experience: 'I'd been coughing up blood'
Danny Burstein, a six-time Tony nominee and cast member of Broadway's Moulin Rouge! The Musical, reveals he's in now at home and recovering after suffering from coronavirus. In a column published by The Hollywood Reporter, the actor describes, in unflinching detail, how he once fell to his "hands and knees in the shower" and had "been coughing up blood for two to three days" before making the decision to go to the hospital.
"I'd had a fever, migraines, body aches, my hands hurt so much," Burstein writes. "I lost my sense of taste and smell and had been monitoring the severity of my symptoms by the hour. My fever was always around 101.6, give or take. Tylenol seemed to be keeping it at bay, sort of. I was already on an antibiotic, an inhaler and a cough syrup with codeine so I could sleep at night. None of which seemed to be doing anything."
Burstein is one of several members of the Moulin Rouge production, including costar Aaron Tveit, who contracted the COVID-19 respiratory illness. Burstein suffered from a previously existing condition, thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland), and his age, 55, placed him "just at the cusp of being worrisome." He writes that now, as his condition betters from home, his wife, Rebecca, is showing symptoms of COVID-19.
According to his detail of events, Burstein was encouraged to go to the hospital if he ever experienced trouble breathing but was mindful of "reports that people were being turned away from hospitals because their symptoms weren't severe enough."
"I was feeling listless and stuffy so I decided to take a shower on Sunday evening, March 22. Shortly after soaping up my face, my breathing became labored, I felt a tightening in my chest," he writes. "I couldn't seem to get enough air into my lungs. I felt light-headed and got down on one knee fearing I was about to faint or fall. I asked myself, 'Is this it? Is it time to go to the emergency room?'"
Burstein describes the sensation like "an 80-pound boy standing straight up on my chest" with phlegm produced like "white, foamy plaque." He spent five days in the hospital where he feared he might die multiple times, and makes note of the "kind and incredibly smart" but visibly "overworked" medical staff. He called out the "stupidity" of President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., but remembers the "strength through stillness" of his doctors.
"One day I asked Dr. Krishna how she was as she was taking off her paper gown after a visit," he recalls. "She stopped everything, sighed and her eyes filled with tears and said, 'I'm all right. It's hard on all of us.' That simple honesty and resignation was beautiful and I won't soon forget her kindness during my tenure there. Strength through stillness."
Broadway theaters in New York remain closed as the city grapples with the number of infections. Burstein commends the producers of Moulin Rouge! for quickly canceling performances before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally closed theaters.
The cast, Burstein notes, "has remained close via a text thread where we try and keep one another's spirits up. We make each other laugh telling jokes and sharing memes. And we also bitch about how awful it's been trying to file for unemployment and dealing with all this idle time. Theater is family and this company of Moulin Rouge! has been the best example of that."
Read his full column at The Hollywood Reporter.
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