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Fighting COVID-19 with Laughter: A Chat with Bruce Lipsky


[00:00:00] Announcer: in life's journey. We must seek to reflect, learn, and grow. Welcome to the road to rediscovery with your host Aubrey Johnson.

Aubrey Johnson: wherever you are. Good morning. Good afternoon. And good evening. Welcome to the roads rediscovery. I'm your host, our Brie Johnson. The roads rediscovery is about reflecting on life's lessons to learn and grow and reaching out to help others struggling through dark times. I'll tell you what, I have a question for you.

How many of you have found yourselves in the most dire and desperate of situations? I mean, feeling as if you are literally knocking on death's door, then without notice something enters your head that makes you laugh. I'm not sure there would be [00:01:00] many of us who can say they've experienced this. My special guest has, and without a doubt, taken the phrase.

Laughter is the best medicine to a new level, a comedian from New York city. He was hit hard with the Corona virus and thankfully is now about seven weeks in recovery. In the typical fashion of New York toughness. He responded to the affliction like a champion. He's using his strength of comedy to recover from COVID-19.

We're going to dive into this great conversation and hear a first person's perspective of what's going on. Through COVID-19 in this country's epicenter and I'm sure we'll have a few good laughs along the way, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce mr. Bruce. Lipski Bruce. Welcome to the show, man.

Bruce Lipsky: It's great to have. Thank you so much, Aubrey. I appreciate the opportunity to come on and hopefully share what I have to say and hopefully give [00:02:00] some inspiration to others and possibly help others as well. Oh, absolutely. No. We're, we're grateful to have you, man. And I know you're going to have some awesome insights.

Aubrey Johnson: I'm really looking forward to this conversation. So first off, Bruce, I just want to send you continued blessings and well wishes on your recovery. How are you feeling right now?

Bruce Lipsky: Oh, very. Interesting

already. Thank you very much. It's a nine weeks I had the culvert virus and I've still, and what they call shedding stage.

Other words that my body is still producing antibodies to combat this disease. The unfortunate part is that medical community understand something about the disease, but not everything. You know, for example, about a month ago, my doctor said probably a couple more weeks, all your symptoms will basically go away.

Now it's a month later and he says it could be two or weeks. It could be two more months. We're not exactly sure. But, you know, you got to have positive attitude. [00:03:00] And I tell people a lot that this disease is a chronic disease. You're battling the physical situation with the disease, the virus itself, right.

Also battling the mental fog, the disease, you know, why did I get it up from, I got it. I'm a healthy guy. Am I ever going to get rid of this disease? Because what happens when you look at the news? And read the papers. What do you see? You know, COVID, COVID, COVID death rates have gone up, you know, hi this drug this week, try another drug and other week, you know, so there's a lot of things in the medical community that they're unsure of.

And I can appreciate that because it's a new virus. Right. but I do know firsthand that I've experienced enough symptoms and I've gone to enough medicine, which I'll certainly talk about that on my road to recovery or what I consider recovery, although certainly not a hundred percent there yet. But I'm staying positive and motivated and, thankful that, you know, a few prayers thrown in there as well.

So, again, I'm moving forward

[00:04:00] Aubrey Johnson: right on. That sounds great, man. And you sound great. You look great. and, and, and you're right, doing the right thing, having the right positive mindset. that is definitely the way to go as, as you're going through this. So, I'd like to first, cut back to the pre COVID-19, part of your journey here, Bruce.

are you originally from New York?

Bruce Lipsky: Right? I'm born and bred in New York city. I live on long Island right now. I've been here about 30 years. I worked in New York city for a fortune 500 company for 25 years. And on my 20th anniversary, essentially, they tapped me on the shoulder and said, Bruce, you're the best employee we ever had, but don't let the door hit you on the way out.

We're eliminating your job. Oh, an agency. I got what retired. And then I worked somewhere else for three years, three months after that, which was even Oh nine. I was seriously injured in an auto accident. [00:05:00] I had a bit of spinal injury and, among other things. And I spent three years in aggressive rehab and thankfully to a lot of really low, I want you to, it came through a lot of challenges.

I worked thought through these challenges and, I recovered as best as possible. and that's one of the reasons I got into stand up comedy. I told you that can stand up. You know, as soon as you, that was my moniker. I said, you know, I work really hard. Spinal entry was traumatic. In fact, the physicians, one of the physicians was in a room and be looking at my x-rays and MRIs.

And she had tears in her eyes. And I said, why are you crying? I'm looking at this. And either you should not be alive where you should be a quadriplegic. And I started crying. And the fact that I am not that I walk with a cane. I've lived it the circle, but I'm very active at the same point. No, my [00:06:00] background is in the exercise field, health and fitness.

That was part of it. My road to recovery as well. The day I got, yeah, hurt was the day I started not only my own rehab. Well through physical therapy as well. And I continue to do it to this day and that's actually helped me through my COVID virus situation too, because I started doing self prescribed breathing exercises.

Very good. I really truly feel that it's helped my long stay clear throughout the process. That's one of the biggest challenges with this disease is that I'm sure you and a lot of your listeners know. The disease usually takes over the lungs. And once it takes over the lungs, this disease says to the body, Hey, I want you to lay in bed, crawl into a ball and get no, thankfully throughout the whole process, my lungs were clear and my oxygen saturation was very good, but I didn't take that for granted.

I had all the other symptoms, you know, the dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, bad headaches, [00:07:00] fever, loss of appetite. Go right down the gamut of anything, anything you can possibly think of, you know, and the first three days are very, very and go. And I didn't realize just in the last of my family told me, you know, by my wife and my son would stare at me at night because I still was so concerned for me the first three days.

but thankfully I, I thought I pulled through everything and, but not without challenges and is there's still challenges and it's still the, what if scenario, can I still get it? Can I still get infected again? You know, all of this, in fact, just in any, you know, you start to wonder. But as I said before, I'm trying to stay very positive.

Staying active. Yeah. I'm on treadmill every day. I'm walking the dog every day. I'm doing other I'm on, I'm doing podcasts like this. I'm doing open mics. I've done some shows, virtual shows. So again, Once you keep the mental part going in bows with the physical part. I think it's a win, win situation.

[00:08:00] Aubrey Johnson: Very nice, very nice.

And it sounds like you've kept a very bright, positive outlook and, and your wife and your son has been very supportive, very supportive of you as well. So, that, that, that scenario that you just painted for us, Bruce, where you were just laying down and they were looking down at you, With that.

Would you say that would be, among, let's say the, one of the lowest points, in your time having this, this, this covert, 19. Virus that, that, that was like maybe the most dire lowest of, of this, of this affliction. Can you paint a picture for us of what that, what that looked like?

Bruce Lipsky: Absolutely. That's a great question, because again, The fear was there because it's disease, no one knew what to do. And to backtrack a little on that, you know, when I first started [00:09:00] getting the symptoms, I called up my doctor and they said, well, you've had symptoms. I don't want to see you. What is the clinic?

I went to the clinic, they met me, their hazmat suits in the parking lot. Fantastic. Cause I had some of the symptoms of COPD. Right. They said, all right, we'll test you three to five days will be a turn around and get the results. Yeah, Tylenol. Okay. I've never taken a Tylenol in my life. Up until that day 60 I'm 64 years old now, really?

So anyway, so I went back home. I said, okay, I'll try the Tylenol. Cause I was afraid as a disease. I had no idea. Unfortunately, three to five day turn around, took 10 days for me to get my results. In the meantime, I started getting sicker. So I have a friend, a local friend in town. I live in a very small town.

It's like almost like Mayberry RFC. Everybody knows each other. Okay. You can walk the streets. [00:10:00] Everybody knows me. I called up my friend, a local doctor who lived across the street. And I said, you know, doctor, so-and-so, I'm really sick. I had the test, I'm explaining my symptoms. And he says, I really think you have it.

He said it's a Thursday right now. My office is closed. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to bring a hat and that suit all it to your house. Put it on the front board. I'm going to open my office up. We're going to take your chest X, right? I'm going to take some blood and listen to your lungs, do everything else.

But he says, if I find out that your lungs are not clear, that's where you're going to the hospital. Okay. That fear was probably just as big as the fear of those first three days. That wondering what's happening to me. And why don't I have my results yet? Why am I that? So imagine the scene now that I went to hazmat suit, walking through my town where everybody knows me to my doctor's office.

[00:11:00] Aubrey Johnson: Oh my goodness. What a sight,

Bruce Lipsky: It was like, Chernobyl most people, they were running away from me. But again, I was trying, I tried to think almost seriously, but in a comedic way as well, because there were so many. Comedic adventures that came through this that probably helped me get through this as well. I'm walking the streets over there.

I get to his office, he checks me out and my lungs are clear and everything else worked out well. It says I'm going to start treating your disease fine. And that's a standard protocol of medicines. And again, I'm not wanting to take medicine. And now he's bombarding me with all this medicine. And on top of that 200,000 units of vitamin D a day.

Because they really, they felt that vitamin D helps all the cells. It keeps the lung tissue alive, and there's a lot of research on vitamin D. And so working with local pharmacist, my doctor, because again, it's that small mom and pop town. Right. We put together a plan. [00:12:00] Okay. And now I had to walk back from the doctor's office in my housemates.

Oh, I'm on the other side of the street and people are looking at me. So they're wondering what's going on. Yeah. Over the course of the next week or so on these medicines and are not getting better. So my doctor says, you know, we have, we have a decision to make right now. I'm reluctant to do this, but I think it's time you went on the Anthem anti-malarial drug.

Okay. Yeah. And so, you know, I said, he said, what? I just wanted to let you know. There are a lot of side effects to this drug. It's really not FDA approved for this type of treatment. If you had a particular disease, let's say you Boomi at time malaria protocol, you would take one pill a day. Okay. Now we're giving you two to four times a day, depending on which day of the week, plus pump you with all the other antibiotics and the D okay.

[00:13:00] Plus on top of that, I lost my appetite. Right. I wound up losing seven pounds. I was going to ask. Okay. Yeah, just didn't was not falling into place. So now the prescription was delivered to my house for the anti-malaria with drugs on Saturday. And I said, what's the, what's my best opportunity getting better.

And the doctor said, taking this drug, I couldn't get myself to take the drugs at seven. I was too scared. Hmm, that was probably one of the most scared times in my life because now I was more worried. Is this going into Jorgen to guilty or is it cure going to help me in lack of better words? I may end up the next day I got to do this and I got to do this, but the first day you're taking four pills.

Aubrey Johnson: That's a lot.

Bruce Lipsky: I was very anxious that day. I would say just the second day. And I wasn't thinking I wasn't getting side effects. So [00:14:00] eased up a little bit. What would that protocol? And I was very thankful and now I consider myself on maintenance, but the trouble with the maintenance is I really haven't felt much better.

I haven't felt worse. I almost feel as I can use it in analogy, I'm in an airplane, circling LaGuardia airport, waiting for the traffic control to clear runway plans and get rid of this disease. That's essentially how I feel right now, but I'm dealing with it. I said, I'm continuing my exercise. I'm trying to be a little bit more active around the house.

And that was another thing. Look into the mental side of this Zs for about eight weeks or seven weeks from my family. I didn't have dinner with my wife for five, seven weeks. Okay. Yeah, that's right. There's almost like they're putting the tray onto the door and running away, you know? Yeah. and a little, a little funny, stupid stories.

I would sit upstairs. I have to help with part of the house. I'm sitting in a reading room and it looks out into my [00:15:00] driveway and I look out the driveway. It's night time. My wife is walking the book. Yeah. I'm sitting in a rocking chair with a blanket around me and she looks up to me and she sends me a text.

But Bruce, you look like Norman Bates, his mother from psycho right now, right, sir. Petrified for two years. So again, I can interject some of the comedy in there, but the idea is that, Hey, You know, this is an image that, and I can picture this because I felt like, sure, this woman right now, who was sitting in this chair, basically meek and feeble and hadn't eaten anything, just wait, you know, didn't want her, we didn't want to eat.

Couldn't sleep laying down because I was coughing. I mean, it just, it just compounds itself. And again, I like to interject funny things too, as well, you know, with this [00:16:00] disease, like everybody else is on lockdown, right? Yeah. Let's face it. Your hair. I'm not showering as much on that shaving wood of getting into a shower was like too much effort hair was all over the place.

What do I see? Pull up into my driveway. A mobile dog grooming fan. Yeah. My wife wrote a grooming session for the dog and I, again, I looked at this and I started laughing. I said, I mean, that's how I RONIC things work, you know? My, my shower was basically putting brute cologne on my neck

correctly. And this dog is getting HubSpot spot treatments or nails done, you know, maybe getting a meal bath. I don't know what she's getting and I'm not even getting sympathy, right?

Aubrey Johnson: Yeah. Oh man. That's something that, [00:17:00] that's something that, you know, one thing you bring up Bruce, that, that, that. inspired me to ask you this question here is, I know, and we just talked about it, you know, the low point and the low part in your COVID-19 journey.

And I know during that time, you know, your wife and your son, they look at you and they see you have no appetite. You're not active. And they're like, Oh man, That's not him. That's not all, it's not my husband, you know? So, what was, what was that one defining time where you started to make a visible turnaround to where, you know, your son would be like, Oh, dad's coming back.

Dad's back. Is, is there a time like that, that, that, that came about

Bruce Lipsky: absolutely. The time came about when I started eating, right. I started eating again. I had an appetite and I'm very regimented on my diet. Right. You know, that's just me for the last 60, 60 years. I just, I'm a very type of person.

[00:18:00] Who's very regimented and big on change so much. I can eat almost the same thing, you know, three, four days a week. And I'm very happy drives my wife, crazy bets. And another story once I started going back to that regimen. Yeah. That was a defining moment. I feel, you know, also another defining moment was when.

I left the bedroom upstairs. I actually came downstairs and actually had dinner. With my wife.

Aubrey Johnson: You had to energy. Yeah.

Bruce Lipsky: Right. I actually sat on the front porch getting fresh air. Nice, nice. Those things. I kind of felt I was entering the human race again. I look at it, you know, but not without the challenge is either that supplies I'd go downstairs.

I could wait and go back upstairs. Right. You know, but my son would say, dad, you got to get out of the bedroom now to get it out of the bedroom. It was getting too easy and comfortable eating in the bedroom, sleeping and the rocking [00:19:00] chair my hours were all screwed up. My diet was all screwed up. Once I felt that I was getting back to what I somewhat of my normal diet and had an appetite again, that was turned around because the color came back in my face.

I had more energy, you know, and yeah, good. And also things started to bother me a little bit more than normal beforehand. I couldn't care less about anything, you know? And so it was just, it was, it was, it was. I really got to appreciate how lucky I am having my wife and my son. He's my dog. This dog would want to leave my side.

He could have been why I was walking. You know, it's on the alpha male and then house, when it comes to walk the dog. So everything changed around I've. Then with the first time I actually took my dog for a walk. My son came along and again, that's another thing my son and I put fine pretty well. He's going to be 25 years old, [00:20:00] you know, you know, but I found him wanting to hang around more maybe because he was concerned maybe of course, you know, Maybe I felt he loved me, which is a great thing.

You know, twenty five year old kids, don't come up and tell you. They love you. They show it off. Nope. That's all right. That's all right. That's okay. Yeah. That's a big type. They tell you, they love you when you, when they argue with you, right. You said, listen to tick them off enough. But yeah, so that first time I had my son take a picture of, and having a good support network is so, so important. You know, it's huge, not only my immediate family, my wife and my son, they couldn't do enough for me. Then I have my relatives and I have my core friends. And then I have my comedy friends. Yes, we kind of, the comedy community really rallied around me as well.

That's all the comedy chat rooms and things like that. And I [00:21:00] was getting, I was getting comments from people that I didn't even know. Some very famous comedians will pop it in, you know, go Brusco Bruce. Can't wait to just get you back on stage or whatever it was. And that was really uplifting to know that I'd had enough people around me.

To really feel that, you know, I'm back in the game basically, you know?

Aubrey Johnson: Oh, it's gotta be, it's gotta be. And then that defining moment, like you said, you know where you started to have dinner with your wife. and like you said, you're realistic about it because you know, there's still struggles and challenges that you went through, but you started to turn that corner.

Right. And I'm sure that's what your family said, you know what dad's going to be. All right.

Bruce Lipsky: Yeah. Yeah. And I actually, I still had fears. Yeah. The, what if scenario, for example, last week I started having some tightness in my trachea and breathing, and of course that's scary in the past. I've had the cough, but not so much my doctor.

And he gave me [00:22:00] an inhale and good. That was good, but it was also, I felt a weakness in the sense that I had to go to something like that. Right. But I understand why I have to do that again. We're all made up psychologically different, you know, I'm the type of person who likes to help him. I don't like to, you know, we'll be the one to help you.

And now I'm depending on other people then me and it's not so bad. I'm calling some of my markers. You know, when I had my car accident 10 or 11 years ago, it was the same thing. Now the things I used to do, everybody else they're ringing my doorbell and saying whatever I can do for you, Bruce, or your family, please let me know.

Yeah. It's hard sometimes to accept when you're a giver, but it's not so bad. To accept once you all you need it.

Aubrey Johnson: Oh no. I, I completely, 100%. I completely agree. 100% Bruce and, and, and, you know, I happen to be, [00:23:00] or have a heart for service where I give a lot as well. And, when those rare times come where I need, you know, someone to give me a hand, I mean, those are dividends coming back, you know, in, in, in a big way.

From a humanity standpoint, you know, I mean, just having that strong support group, looking out for you as you would look out for them, you know, when, when they're in a time of need, I mean, it just pays, it pays dividends. So, so let me ask you, w and I think you mentioned this earlier, would you attribute, the way that you were able to, recover from this and still going through recovery?

Would you, could you, attribute that to, to the fitness of the health that you've maintained, before? COVID-19?

Bruce Lipsky: Great question. There's no doubt about it. My mind at certainly proper health nutrition lifestyle will make a difference. You know, I have several friends who are nurses. Who've worked in the ICU [00:24:00] units where they'd seen a lot of the COVID patients.

Less active, more overweight, hypertension diabetic. That's not the only one. There are people who are very healthy, who got this disease. Sure. I'm probably one of those people as well. And I was discussing this walking boat with my son today. She said that, you know, I had a friends friend whose father passed away two years old from this disease.

I really tribute a lot of the stuff that you've been doing over these years, what your diet and exercise that may have saved your life. I'd like to think it's true. I have, I have no scientific data to prove that. Right. But I think I gave myself a better stance because. Drawing my normal diet and everything.

I am taking certain vitamins. And so one of those is vitamin D. And again, if it's true, that vitamin D really is one of the saviors to this disease. Maybe I had a good basis for it, kept it out of my lungs. [00:25:00] So I definitely agree that there's a component to that. All the parts could be mother nature, genetics, and the man above, you know, so the almighty, I don't have the plan necessarily, but I'm just trying to work at the best I can.

And I think if you could, I would say it, you can control the things that you can control. Yep. Correct. So it's tough. Usually takes care of itself. So I'm, I'm doing the best of what I can control at least on my diet and exercise. And in fact, I'm back on the treadmill 30 minutes today, not at the same speed I used to do.

You know, every day prior to this, I was doing 40 minutes, three point something miles a day walking because I can't run anymore because of my accident, upper body, lower body exercises out with the dog. So at the end of the day, I was doing five to seven miles right now, not near that point, but I'm slowly catching up.

Okay. And I know, so it was a slow journey and yeah, as we say, you know, it's a life is not a sprint, it's a marathon. So you just [00:26:00] gotta go look at the longterm. Absolutely. Yeah. Look at the long term. Yeah.

Aubrey Johnson: You gotta have the little wins and, and, you know, we have a direction that we're moving in. we don't have to be so wrapped up in the destination, but enjoy the journey as you're going.

Right?

Bruce Lipsky: Exactly. And sometimes the journey may have a few bumps in the road and, you know, two steps forward, one step back. But again, you don't want to give up because as I said before, this disease wants you to give up.

Aubrey Johnson: Right on stay the course. Right, Bruce, and, and you hit the nail on the head. Okay. The next question I wanted to ask you, and it's regarding it's regarding this disease.

Okay. we know this virus feeds on a lot of things. would it be fair to say that this virus from your observation, would it be fair to say that this virus feeds on, our complacency or our tendency to be complacent.

Bruce Lipsky: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Because [00:27:00] you know, once you realize some of the symptoms and things, you're going through you look back and say, you know, the way I'm living my life, you know, am I doing the right thing?

You know, not only. Oh, physically nutritionally, spiritually, you know, just everything that, all the relationships and, you know, it made me want to give back more, you know? Right, right. Yeah. And it was interesting because I did a comedy show, a virtual show last Sunday. Small show, you know, that song, you know, like, like almost like a zoom room, you know?

And I invited several friends, you know, and family and stuff. And next day I got some people, a friends in town, which I don't hang out with this person. I see them in the street. I say, hello. He sent me a [00:28:00] donation of a hundred dollars.

It was, I felt weird because, cause I didn't want to go back and say, why did she do that? I looked at it as know, he appreciated what I had to say and what to do when he wrote me a nice note. So with that money, I want to pay that float. Right. Okay. So I don't know, I need the a hundred dollars, right? He knows, I don't necessarily need the hundred miles.

You was gracious enough to want to do that because that's, that works. When he gets a baby, he felt the relationship that we had was important enough. He wanted to show thanks and some appreciation to who I am. Sure. Part is how we developed our relationship. So when I felt funny again, Accepting it. And I just got it, my wife and I said, what do I do?

And she said, just bank them. Thank you. I appreciate everything. You know, you're good friends and [00:29:00] leave it because if you go back and say, Hey, why don't you do this for I'm sending it back. That's not being true to the friendship. It's almost insulting my wife and I agree. There's a way we're going to pay it forward.

I was going to do that. There are a lot of different ways. I haven't figured that out yet, but I know that. I'm not spending that money, you know?

Aubrey Johnson: Sure. Right now I'm in, I'm in lockstep with you. I hear where you're coming from Bruce, for sure. Sure. So there's, there's a lot of different senses of humor, right?

I mean, people have sense of humors and there's different senses of humor. I don't know if, if you could say there's an infinite. Number of senses of humor, but, I guess that explains why every comic has their own style. what I find fascinating about you Bruce is, is how you're able to strike a balance between your humor.

Okay. And, and, and using laughter to help you through this and [00:30:00] your very realistic view on how scary this experience was for you. Was this balance, the outlook you've had the entire COVID-19 journey. And what I mean by that Bruce's did you have to adopt this outlook, this mindset, or has this always been a part of your DNA, the core of who you are?

Bruce Lipsky: I actually think it's part of the DNA, you know, of, of, of where I'm coming from. Try and see the humor in things, if you can. It doesn't mean that I'm not scared. I'm not internally printing, you know, but that goes way back to, I guess, to my father and my brothers, you know, my father had a very sarcastic sense of humor.

My brother, one of my brothers unfortunately passed away. About two years ago. He had this fantastic sense of humor. and I'm not, I don't, I don't know. I haven't necessarily sarcastic sense of humor, but there was always humor in the family. Right. That's a good [00:31:00] way of coping, you know, looking at, you know, That you take things serious that have to be taken serious, but at the same point, if you can find some laughter and it was some confident in laughter, it helps out a lot.

You know, I use a joke on stage and I say, you know, they'd all be, you know, obviously I'm struggling a lot in, both have a lot of emotions, you know, the fear of dying and all these, these going to kill me, all the Bill's going to kill me. Am I going to get better? The biggest fear I had. Is that what my wife said, Bruce, how would you like if I gave you a hiarcut?

Okay. And then w