COVID-19 survivor Joe Brailsford, musician

Joe Brailsford
Photo: Wade Vandervort

"I think I know when I picked it up," Joe Brailsford says. “It was March 15, and it was the last day I worked.” As a singer and musician in local Irish band Darby O’Gill and the Little People, the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day back in March was his busiest of the year, naturally.

One of those days, the group performed three sets at one Strip location, played three sets at a dive bar in Henderson and then headed back to the Strip for four more sets at another bar. All told, the 46-year-old Brailsford played 10 hours of shows, not accounting for travel time.

“It was probably a 15-hour day,” he says. “And my roommates [had] just gotten back from their honeymoon in Thailand and Japan … when I got home that night, I was dishing out welcome hugs.”

A week later, Brailsford began feeling symptoms of the coronavirus. “[My roommates] were worried they may have brought it back with them, which is a possibility, but that would make them completely asymptomatic,” he says. “Not one day went by where they weren’t being as productive as possible.”

Brailsford says his experience with COVID-19 started with “the aches and pains of a regular flu,” and then a fever crept in. “Your skin hurts, and your eyes hurt,” he says of his earliest symptoms. He made an appointment to get tested at UNLV, and in early April, he tested positive.

Brailsford says on some days he’d start feeling relatively good, as if he was getting better, but then his fever and symptoms would return, and new ones sometimes appeared. His fever lasted a couple of weeks before it finally went away. “You start losing your sense of smell, so that was strange,” he says, “and you get this metallic taste in your mouth. [The symptoms] don’t come all at once.”

When Brailsford started experiencing shortness of breath, he says, “That’s when you start freaking out a little bit. You’re waking up in the middle of the night because you can’t breathe.”

Brailsford also suffers from asthma, but looking back, he says that condition might have actually helped him fight COVID-19. “If I didn’t have an inhaler, I would have probably had to go to the hospital, but I puffed on the inhaler a few times, and it worked.”

After a few weeks spent ordering spicy ramen soup, drinking apple cider vinegar/turmeric/ginger shots prepared by his roommates and playing Battlelands Royale on his iPhone, Brailsford eventually returned to normal. “I’m still currently ranked 126 out of 400,000 active users [in the game], and climbing the charts,” he laughs.

On the downside, “I haven’t seen my mom since early March,” he says.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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