SAN ANTONIO – Ron Wilkins is one of the most experienced trombonists in the country. As a composer and arranger for Broadway shows, he has worked with extraordinary talent.
But in April the music stopped for a while.
Most importantly, I am now a COVID survivor and want people to understand the importance of safe hygiene – just to take care of themselves, “said Wilkins. “And not so much for them, but for the other people around them, whether they are people you love from people you know.”
That message is far more important to a survivor.
“It should be common sense to be able to take care of ourselves and each other,” he said.
In April, Wilkins developed minor symptoms. Feeling tired, he dismissed it as allergies. One day, he decided to lie down and take a nap.
“I slept in the bedroom of my mother’s house in San Antonio again. My older brother came in to see how I was and I wasn’t responding, ”Wilkins recalled. They put me in an ambulance and rushed me to Northeast Baptist Hospital, where I was diagnosed on April 4th with COVID, and because the symptoms were so severe and so hard, they had to put me in a coma to continue and give me the right treatment. So I was intubated. I had a tracheal tube inserted and I was out for 32 days. Unconscious for 32 days. ‘
“So when I got back from that, I couldn’t speak. I absolutely couldn’t move because I was immobile all the time, “Wilkins continued. “So I lost a lot of muscle, lost about 40 pounds. I’ve now got back about 20 to 25 from it, but it’s also just the ongoing physical and occupational therapy to help me get stronger and more coordinated and better balanced so I can get back to where I was, and – what no doubt I will – but to get better than where I was. ‘
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And where Wilkins performed with some of the titans of American music.
“I performed in the ensembles with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, the Four Tops, the Temptation, the Supremes,” he said.
Wilkins has been playing trombone since high school. He studied jazz performance at North Texas State University and heard the ear of jazz trumpet player Clark Terry, who played in the Duke Ellington orchestra.
“My career as a musician really started, because when you play with such greats, a message comes out,” said Wilkins.
However, nothing in Wilkins’ career prepared him for what had happened in recent months.
“I’ve never been so sick all my life and I had no idea how sick I really was until I came out of the coma,” he said.
After a tough test, Wilkins plays again.
“But after I got out of this with COVID, where I had a near-death experience, [I’m] so grateful to be able to continue making the music and sharing the experience, sharing the joy, sharing the gift and bringing the music I have in me to life to give you, ‘he said.
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