Danny Burstein Opens Up About Caring for His Wife Who Has ALS and Tested Positive for Coronavirus
"We were very much on our own," Danny Burstein, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year, recalled
The six-time Tony nominee revealed in a recent guest column published by The Hollywood Reporter that he became the sole caretaker for Luker — a fellow stage performer who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2019 — after she tested positive for the COVID-19 amid his recovery from the virus.
At the time, the couple's 24-year-old son Zach had moved out of the family's New York City home out of precaution, leaving him in charge of Luker's care, according to Burstein.
"No health care worker in their right mind would come to our home as we were both suffering with the aftereffects of the coronavirus. We were very much on our own," he remembered. "The next month was spent pretty much alone in isolation. Despite being dizzy and in a constant state of exhaustion, I was somehow able to care for her."
Moulin Rouge! The Musical star continued, "I walked to the market at midnight every other night to shop for food when the store was fairly empty. Becca suffered through my terrible cooking. She sweetly never said anything bad about the experimental slop I threw in front of her at dinner."
Fortunately, according to the actor, Luker's "bout lasted only about a week" and she "had three days of a mild fever and lost her sense of taste and smell, common symptoms of the illness, but was otherwise OK."
Still, Burstein said there were some worrying times during the ordeal, including on April 22 when he "felt constricting chest pains" and had to leave Luker with a friend while he visited the hospital, he wrote.
"To this day, we're not completely sure what it was — my body adjusting after a near-death experience is a possibility. So are myriad other scenarios," Burstein, who was hospitalized in March for coronavirus, shared. "While waiting for my results to come back that night, the ER doctor showed me my chest X-ray from five weeks before. He said the old X-ray was 'just terrible.' He kept saying I was 'very, very sick.' "
"It took me over two months before I could walk two or three blocks without feeling winded. I was terrified my lungs wouldn't recover. I feel it's a bit of a miracle that they have," he continued.
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Though the pair have recovered from coronavirus, Burstein said they're now facing a new hurdle as his wife's ALS "has been getting worse quite rapidly" amid the ongoing pandemic.
Recalling an email he had recently written to a friend about their life during the health crisis, the actor said that Luker has been struggling to perform daily tasks and "spends her days fighting."
"It's a struggle to lift her. It's a struggle to get her into her chair," he wrote, quoting the email. "She hasn't walked in nearly six months."
"Her shoulders went, seemingly overnight. And now her hands. Their shape has changed, especially the left. But the right one is starting to curl in the same unusual fashion," Burstein continued, saying he has to "hold back the tears" whenever he helps dress her. "I try to stretch them back into a familiar position and she says it feels good, but they fall back into their new shape."
Despite the challenges, Burstein said he and Luker still "have hope."
"I can't deny her hope. I have some, too. But I have to keep preparing for the worst. And I hate that I am preparing for the worst. But we are hoping our hopes come true," he added.
As of Monday, there have been more than 5,064,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 United States and 162,600 deaths from coronavirus-related illness, according to a New York Times database.
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