How a Survivor is surviving his bout with the coronavirus

Cynthia Wang
6 min readMay 18, 2020

After three months, two-time player Phillip “The Specialist” Sheppard bests COVID-19 and talks about experience

Phillip Sheppard on Survivor: Caramoan. Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS.

During two memorable turns on Survivor — 2011’s Redemption Island, where he finished second to “Boston Rob” Mariano, and 2013’s Caramoan — former federal agent Phillip Sheppard formed his “Stealth R Us” alliance to maneuver through the game.

Taking a page out of his own book, Sheppard is now calling upon his inner drive and “Health R Us,” a team of doctors, family and friends, to help him battle back from the debilitating effects of the coronavirus.

“I think many people think it’s like the flu, or they won’t get it,” Sheppard says from his home in Santa Monica, California. “The truth is it’s nothing like the flu. At 62 years old, it was very scary for me as African Americans are most likely to die or be hospitalized from COVID-19.”

Sheppard traces his ordeal back to the week of February 20, when he met with a friend who had returned from a 10-day trip to France and Italy. Two days later, having fallen ill, he walked to the ER, which was less than four blocks from his house.

After three hours to get all the necessary bloodwork done and samples taken, he was sent home thinking he had a urinary infection but not COVID-19, despite having many symptoms.

Taking no chances, Sheppard self-quarantined, but he became sicker and sicker. For a guy who was used to sleeping like an angel, he felt fits of pain in his heart if he rolled to the left or the right, or if he attempted to sleep on his back. He also sweated so much that his bed would be soaked.

Yet things weren’t much better in the morning. “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 explains. “My heart bothered me, my lungs felt tight, and fatigue set in during the shortest of activities.”

The virus, Sheppard surmises, seems to work like how a person appears to speed up at the end of solving a Rubik’s Cube — it finds a body’s weak spots and then converges on those points all at once. So in addition to a fever of more than 100 degrees, a sore throat, and a dry cough, his existing joint problems were…

Cynthia Wang

Pop culture writing, entertainment reporting, panda gazing, Sydney living. Veteran editor at TV Week, Who, and People. Cherub instructor always.