Rita Wilson never expected to get COVID-19. When the actress, producer, singer / songwriter – and breast cancer survivor – and her husband Tom Hanks flew to Australia last winter, she said she had taken every precaution.
Even so, Wilson, 63, and Hanks, 64, contracted the virus shortly after arriving and posted the news on social media on March 12.
Actress “Jingle All the Way” recently spoke to HealthyWomen about her experience with COVID-19, her music and her mission to raise awareness about the importance of the flu vaccine.
Coronavirus Down Under
“I couldn’t have been more conservative,” Wilson said, discussing how she signed COVID-19. “I did two performances in Australia – one in Brisbane and one at the Sydney Opera House. I flew on the plane in a Hazmat suit and brought my own wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer. I wiped everything off like it went out of business.” I haven’t touched anything! “
When Wilson and Hanks arrived in Australia, she said she was rehearsing with her band and not hugging anyone.
“We all talked about social distancing. I wiped everything we went. I was like Lady Macbeth, ‘out, out, damn place!'” She joked.
After her show in Sydney, Wilson continued to be cautious.
“We tried our best to do what we knew back then with the information. Every now and then someone would get within your social distance, six foot sphere. But even so, I really don’t know where I got it from.”
In an Instagram post on March 12, 2020, Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife Rita Wilson had COVID-19 and were in isolation.
Wilson noted that her COVID-19 experience was worse than she thought.
“Everything about it was like the extreme of everything it was,” she explained. “So if you had the chills, it was extreme chills. If you had a fever, it was a high fever. If you had a headache, it was like a relentless vise around your head. It’s not like you can take an aspirin and it.” would go away. Her exhaustion was worse than just being tired from a cold. “
When Wilson’s fever rose after she and Hanks officially tested positive, they were hospitalized for three days and three nights. After their release, they were quarantined in their rented house in Australia.
“There were concerns as the fever was escalating. But I stayed extremely hydrated,” said Wilson. “I don’t know if this had anything to do with my recovery, whether it helped or not. When I got back from the hospital, it actually got worse. I got cooler, still had a high fever and extreme nausea, dizziness, vomiting. It was very uncomfortable. ”
Wilson said that because it all happened at the same time, it was even more difficult.
“It’s not like you can say, ‘Oh, it’s gotten into this.’ It’s basically incapable, you can’t really do anything, you can’t eat, you can’t talk to anyone, you can’t pick up the phone and say to someone, “I’m fine” or “I need” water. ‘ Basically because you are at home and you cannot infect anyone, you are alone. There is no one who can really help. Fortunately we have [she and Hanks] had each other, so we could at least be there for each other. ”
Like many COVID-19 patients, Wilson lost her sense of taste and smell early.
“I asked the doctor if anyone had experienced this loss. But at that point, in early March, nobody really knew about it. He said he hadn’t heard anything, but then about a week later he said,” Oh, by the way, we are starting to get a lot of reports about it. “That took about two months and didn’t come back right away,” she said.
Wilson’s sense of taste and smell returned sporadically. “Sometimes I had it in the morning and I didn’t have it for the rest of the day. It finally came back. I’m so grateful.”
Throughout her experience, the “Girls” actress never lost her sense of humor. “You’d think if you lost your sense of taste and smell, you wouldn’t eat. No! ‘It’ll be right back when I’m in the middle of that bite!’ But it didn’t, “she said with a laugh.
“After two weeks, your appetite comes back and you feel like you are coming out of a brain fog,” said Wilson. The third week is really about exhaustion; you’re just so tired “
The music goes on
Soon after his recovery, Wilson started making music again. “While I took refuge at home, I was able to stay creative and write music with my songwriting friends. That was really great!”
In April, Wilson worked with Naughty by Nature to remix her 1992 multiplatin hit “Hip Hop Hooray”, which she learned for her role in the movie “Boy Genius”. The video was posted on Instagram and immediately went viral. The single was released through streaming music services. The profits went to the MusiCares Foundation Inc.’s COVID-19 Relief Fund to help musicians affected by the pandemic.
Her latest single “What I Would Say” is about dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction. In 2015, Wilson and Hanks’ son, Chet, went public about his addiction battles.
“Addiction affects not only the addict, but the people who love them,” said Wilson. “Many people struggle with the complications and anxiety that the addiction of a loved one brings into their lives. Despite belief, it doesn’t get good to imagine an outcome that one never wants to encounter. This outcome is all too common for so many . “
Wilson is now fully recovered and has partnered with the American Nurses Association on The Race to 200 Million initiative. The campaign (in partnership with Sanofi) aims to get at least 200 million Americans vaccinated against the flu for the 2020-2021 flu season.
“I never want to get COVID-19 again, and I also don’t want to catch the flu,” said Wilson. “There is this community of people over the age of 50 with chronic illnesses and / or underlying health problems like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes who are really at risk [for both the flu and COVID-19]. ”
With COVID-19 cases rising and the flu season approaching, health experts are warning of “twindemics” and urging Americans to get a flu shot. During the 2019-2020 season, only 45% of Americans received the flu vaccine and an estimated 35.5 million Americans were infected with influenza – nearly 491,000 hospitalized.
Wilson pointed out that 200 million people who got the flu shot this season could significantly reduce the number of people hospitalized this winter.
“That means health care nurses are less overwhelmed as COVID is still here in the fall and will be here in the winter. This takes the strain off them and the doctors,” she said.
Wilson is confident that people will hear the message and take action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people get their flu shot in September or October.
“It’s kind of an ideal,” said Wilson, “but then if you don’t get it, you’ll still get the flu shot! This is a disease that is nowhere.”
Another disease that, unfortunately, is getting nowhere is breast cancer. In 2015, Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction. She has a message for women who have postponed going to the doctor for their mammograms or pandemic screening.
“In my experience, early detection is critical to your prognosis,” said Wilson. “I would definitely speak to your doctor or health care provider about what safety protocols are in place for taking your mammograms [during COVID-19]. You can always do your breast self-exam in the shower once a month, so don’t forget that! ”
The race for 200 million
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Hotline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
American Cancer Society