COVID-19 wasn’t the only thing Jason Heyward thought of as he struggled to take a deep breath in between pitches Sunday. But it did cross his mind.
“I just thought if it was (COVID-19),” Heyward said, “then I’m not sure how because I’ve been doing everything the right way.”
The right-fielder returned to the Cubs lineup Wednesday against the Reds, after undergoing tests that ruled out COVID-19, various cardiovascular conditions and allergies as the source of Heyward’s shortness of breath and fatigue. The best explanation doctors could come up with was possibly a viral syndrome.
“It feels good to be back in the lineup,” Heyward said. “I feel a lot better mentally, physically, knowing that I was in good hands, did every test imaginable to make sure that I’m healthy and that I won’t harm anyone around me as well.”
Heyward’s symptoms began during his first at-bat of the Cubs’ 7-3 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. With a full count, Heyward tried to take his usual deep breath in between pitches.
“I had to rush the breath out,” Heyward said. “And I was like, ‘OK, that’s not normal. So, let’s try this again.’ And it wasn’t there. But I tried not to freak myself out, just wanted to play, keep my mind off of that.”
The next pitch, Heyward hit a hard ground ball to second baseman Kolten Wong, who threw him out at first. When Heyward returned to the dugout, his teammates told him to keep swinging it. But Heyward’s mind was elsewhere.
“OK, what just happened?” he remembers thinking.
By the time Heyward stepped up to the plate again, in the fourth inning, his breathing issues still hadn’t improved. By the end of the at-bat, Heyward knew he had to report his symptoms, and not just for his own sake.
He’d been especially diligent in minimizing his risk of contracting COVID-19 because his fiancée’s sister had recently had a baby, Heyward said. But in case he had somehow picked up the virus, Heyward needed to distance himself from his teammates and coaches.
“The panic part for me was when I came out of the game, I started realizing, alright the breathing is not really feeling too great, and I started getting tired,” Heyward said. “I think it probably stressed me out a little bit more than normal.”
Cameron Maybin replaced Heyward in right field, and the Cubs sent Heyward to the hospital for testing. Along with cardio and allergy tests, Heyward said he’s taken three COVID-19 tests since leaving Sunday’s game. All came back negative.
The last test Heyward took Tuesday was a stress echocardiogram, he said. It tested his heart’s function while he was walking and running on the treadmill.
“All that stuff came back clear,” Heyward said, “which is, for me, great peace of mind on the physical end, as far as me being healthy and able to come back out here and play.”