Survivor Star Phillip Sheppard Details His 'Extremely Difficult' Experience with Coronavirus

The two-time player says he feels "much better" three months after falling ill

Phillip Sheppard
Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty

Phillip "The Specialist" Sheppard is opening up about his battle with the novel coronavirus.

In an interview with Cynthia Wang published in the On Right Now blog, the two-time Survivor player, 62, detailed his "difficult" experience with COVID-19, which he believes he contracted during the week of Feb. 20, when he met with a friend who had returned from a trip to France and Italy.

Two days later, Sheppard fell ill and went to the emergency room. After getting bloodwork done, he said he was sent home thinking he had a urinary infection. Out of precaution, he opted to self-quarantine as his symptoms worsened.

"I noticed that my lungs would not allow me to take a deeper breath, and while I could hold my breath, I could not do it for very long," he said, adding that he sweated so much during the night his bed was soaked. "My heart bothered me, my lungs felt tight, and fatigue set in during the shortest of activities."

His existing joint problems were exacerbated, too, and he battled a fever of over 100 degrees, a sore throat, and a dry cough.

"It impacted my heart, causing the arteries to swell, and leakage and pain for several days," he said. "It hurt my lungs to breathe and it caused bronchial and urinary tract infections over a 22-day period."

Sheppard, who finished second on 2011's Redemption Island and also competed in 2013's Caramoan, said he wrote to his doctor in March, but the protocol in place at the time did not allow him to be tested for the coronavirus. In April, he returned to the hospital for an X-ray, and a pulmonary doctor told him he had cardiomyopathy and a lung infection caused by either inflammation or disease.

He was prescribed antibiotics and pain meds, and opted to boost his daily diet with 29 different types of foods.

"The Survivor in me said, 'Move or die trying, eat right, stay positive, meditate,' " he said. "It worked, but it was extremely difficult."

In May, he returned to the hospital, where another X-ray "showed what I felt, that it was much, much better," he said. He also had blood drawn for an antibody test, and said doctors got in touch with him later that month to let him know the blood test had come back positive and that he indeed had COVID-19.

He was advised to continue with his safety and health precautions, including maintaining a diet low in salt for his heart health, wearing a mask around other people and practicing social distancing.

"I think many people think it's like the flu, or they won't get it," Sheppard said. "The truth is it's nothing like the flu."

"My recovery went incredibly well thus far, and my doctors have said it's a good idea to let people know you can make a full recovery," he continued. "I do feel much better, and after seeing the images of people not taking precautions seriously, I thought I should share my story."

"I would encourage Americans to follow the guidelines of medical professionals," he added. "We have to own this moment. It's what future generations will talk about, what we did."

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