SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Pastor Kenneth Rouche is back to work, preaching at Branded Hearts Church, which he helped found more than 20 years ago.
But he missed the entire month of January after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I will stand up and tell everybody, ‘You don’t want to experience COVID like I did,'” the pastor told News 3.
Rouche said he was feeling a little under the weather in December and got a coronavirus test at the Savannah Civic Center. He decided to self isolate in a room in his home to avoid possible exposure to his family.
By Jan. 2, when the email came that he had tested positive, Rouche was beginning to feel pretty unwell. He says it began with body aches to the point where his body “hurt so much there were days when clothes hurt his skin.”
“And there was the coughing that just would not stop, and then the excruciating headache, and then the fever came,” the pastor said.
All the while, he was in a room alone in his home. His wife brought him meals and placed them in front of the door, reminding him of old movies where prisoners are given their food that way. He said the only time he would actually see his wife is when they FaceTimed on the phone.
Rouche told News 3 at one point, his fever spiked so high that his wife was planning to take him to the hospital, but luckily the fever went down.
As he was isolated in that room, he says there was a lot of praying going on. “And it got kind of scary because you feel this disease in your body, and there is nothing you can do about it except sort of wait it out,” Rouche added.
“It took me weeks to get my strength back,” said Rouche. “It was as if the disease had just pulled all the strength out of my body, and so it took me weeks to get back. I didn’t work the entire month of January.”
“I’m preaching again, but I don’t take lightly the fact that for so many people, the disease took a wrong turn and they didn’t make it back,” he said.
The pastor is hoping his story will help others, especially African Americans, to protect themselves and to seriously consider taking the COVID vaccine.
“I would tell anybody that if the vaccine would help you avoid what I went through, then, by all means, take it,” he said.
Rouche knows there is distrust in the African American community because of past abuse with scientific experiments and issues surrounding vaccines themselves.
“These (COVID) vaccines have been created very quickly compared to other vaccines, and so there have honestly been a lot of African Americans who say, ‘I don’t want to be first,’ but hopefully that trend will turn, it will change,” the pastor said.
Rouche told us when his doctors advise it, he will take a vaccine.
“I have shared my experience with my church family, and I encourage people to do whatever they can to stay safe and to live,” he said.
Rouche says so many in the African American community now know several people who have lost loved ones or who have lost love ones themselves.
“And so I say COVID is very serious, and it’s nothing to play with,” said Rouche.