At the beginning of February, northern California thrash metal bands Death Angel, Exodus, and Testament flew to Copenhagen to kick off a hard-hitting five-week tour called The Bay Strikes Back. Everything went to plan until their show in Milan, Italy was cancelled because the Lombardy region had almost 40 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and public events were being called off in an attempt to slow the spread of the already unnerving illness.
The bands played 10 more shows in five different countries before their final concert in Hannover, Germany, was also cancelled. But by the time they packed their gear, locked their road cases, and checked in for their flights back to San Francisco, several of the musicians and some of the support crew started to suspect that the aches and exhaustion they were experiencing weren't just because of their grueling travel schedule.
"Near the end of the tour, a couple of the guys were really sick. I must have caught it from them because the last three or four nights of the tour I knew I had it. I felt terrible," Death Angel drummer Will Carroll told Decibel. "I knew it was the coronavirus. I get colds here and there but I had a fever and aching and this intense flu. I never get sick like that."
Carroll's fiancee, Leeshawn Navarro, said that he basically walked into their apartment, went straight to bed, and didn't move for the next five days. When he woke up, he had a 102.6 degree fever and was having difficulty breathing. He was immediately transported to the California Pacific Medical Center—although Carroll says he has zero recollection of any of this.
The 47-year-old spent the next 12 days in the hospital's intensive care unit where he was placed in a medically induced coma and hooked to a ventilator to help him breathe. While he was unconscious, his mind decided that it would be a great time to take him to some legitimately terrifying places. "I did have some out of body experiences," he said. "I went to hell and Satan was a woman and I was being punished for sloth. I was this giant obese Jabba the Hut type creature. I was vomiting blood and kept on vomiting blood until I had a heart attack which is kind of weird because I had heart failure during my coma.
"I remember rising up from Hell and floating up above my body and once I got to heaven it was horrifying there, too. It was like a Roman orgy and the angels were scarier than the demons. I shot back down to earth and I was with some friends in a nightclub and I didn’t know why I was there. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up. My first words to the nurse were: 'Am I still in hell?' She just ignored it."
Carroll has since learned how serious his situation was –– and that there had been some concern among the medical staff that he might not survive. Dr. George Horng, a pulmonologist at the hospital, told the San Francisco Chronicle's Datebook that Carroll was "the worst" –– the most seriously ill –– of the four coronavirus patients that were being treated at the facility at that time.
"He still was near the limits of what we could do with our supportive care, and we were very worried about him,” Horng said. “He wasn’t getting worse, but if he were to get worse, there wasn’t much more that we could have done.”
Carroll was released from the hospital in early April. In the weeks since, he's had physical therapy to help with some of the coma-related muscle atrophy, and he's tried to live a healthier lifestyle, swearing off hard booze and smoking weed (although he's still alright with edibles). He also acknowledged that his belief systems have shifted a bit too. He told Datebook that he feels like he was able to recover partially because of the prayers from his friends and family.
“I’m still going to listen to satanic metal, and I still love Deicide and bands like that,” he said. “As far as for my personal life and my experience of what I went through, I don’t think Satan’s quite as cool as I used to.”