Tony Boselli Shares His Scary Coronavirus Symptoms: 'They're Not Making This Up'

"I remember having the conversation with myself: I don't want to die here," Tony Boselli told ESPN

Tony Boselli

Former NFL player Tony Boselli was shocked by the severity of coronavirus after he was diagnosed with the disease two weeks ago, and now the 47-year-old hopes to convince others to take safety precautions seriously.

Boselli — who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995 to 2001 before retiring with the Houston Texans in 2002 — first displayed signs of the virus when he came down with flu-like symptoms on March 16, he told the Jaguars.

“I thought I was getting better, then I woke up one day and I was going downhill fast,” Boselli recalled. “That’s when I was like, ‘Holy cow … this is real.’ ”

When he learned he had been around someone who had contracted coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, Boselli was screened and found out he was infected as well.

Though he figured he would simply be treated with fluids and medicine and be quickly on his way to recovery, Boselli instead spent five days in the hospital as it became more and more difficult for him to breathe.

“It was kind of fuzzy, but I remember [the pulmonologist] saying, ‘If we don’t get your oxygen stabilized, we’re going to have to go to the next level,’ ” he recalled to ESPN. “I remember laying there thinking, ‘What do you mean, if this doesn’t work?’ He says, ‘We don’t know what direction this is going to go.’ ”

“I don’t know if I ever was like I thought I was going to die, but I remember having the conversation with myself: I don’t want to die here,” Boselli added.

Tony Boselli
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Boselli’s wife, Angie, also tested positive for the virus and was self-quarantined at their home. She only experienced mild symptoms, he said.

The first symptoms of coronavirus affect the upper respiratory system and present as coughing and sneezing, much like a cold. But as the illness progresses, symptoms will become more like the flu, and infected person may experience a running fever, fatigue and body aches. But many of the people who contract the virus may not show any symptoms at all.

“The only people who could come in were health care workers, and they had to be in their full protective equipment,” Boselli told ESPN. “They were great, though. Those doctors and PAs and nurses and techs, everyone, they’re amazing. These people were absolutely amazing. Superstars.”

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As of Friday afternoon, at least 6,600 people have died from coronavirus around the United States, according to the New York Times.

Boselli was finally released from Mayo Clinic on Tuesday, and his latest test came back negative for coronavirus.

“The thing is, it’s real,” Boselli told the Jaguars. “This is not a political debate. This isn’t if you’re on one side of the aisle or the other.”

“Thankfully I recovered, but there was no guarantee,” he added. “You’ve got to take it seriously, and the main message is: These healthcare experts and workers that are talking about this? They’re not making this up.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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