A personal trainer from London, Ont., is sharing a cautionary tale about doubting the seriousness of COVID-19 after contracting the virus while vacationing abroad.
Jonathon O’Hagan recently travelled to the Dominican Republic over the winter holidays, seeking a break from nearly a year of having followed various health restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really hard after one year to maintain your faith in something that you can’t see, smell or touch,” O’Hagan said.
As a personal trainer, his job was heavily affected due to multiple closures impacting his gym, including an ongoing provincewide lockdown in Ontario, and he recalls feeling depressed over the state of the world.
“I put some money together that I had to take my girlfriend away and another couple that we work with,” O’Hagan said.
“I probably shouldn’t have, but a year’s a long time.”
The trip soon took a turn for the worse when he began feeling a minor pressure behind his eyes, which he initially thought was due to allergies or his body acclimatizing to a new country.
Within days, he began feeling flu-like symptoms before his lungs collapsed.
“When I started not being able to breathe and gasping for air is when it really hit me the seriousness of the virus and how much we underestimate it,” O’Hagan said in a phone interview from his hospital bed in Punta Cana.
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“I thought I was going to die, I thought of my family, I thought of my girlfriend… I was really scared.”
While he’s lost about 20 pounds and is still unaware of what the long-term effects may be, O’Hagan’s condition has improved.
“I’m starting to show good vitals and I’m able to eat and function on my own now,” O’Hagan said.
With hope on the horizon for a recovery, O’Hagan has now turned his attention to changing the minds of those who doubt COVID-19.
“I felt it was really important for me to share my experience because of… how many people probably felt the same as me.”
“I’m overall a pretty healthy guy, I train jiu-jitsu, I box, I’m strength training about six days a week,” O’Hagan said, adding that he thought the virus would only affect those who are sick, elderly or have health complications.
“That’s not the case — this virus showed me no mercy. It took me to my knees and it crushed me.”
As of Wednesday, O’Hagan remains inside a Punta Cana medical centre. He was supposed to come home on Jan. 3 but is now unsure of when he’ll be released or when he’ll get home.
“I’m a firm believer if you make your bed you lie in it and I’m definitely lying in mine, so it’s something I’ll have to figure out.”
O’Hagan hopes his story will spur those listening to follow COVID-19 measures and take the virus seriously.
“I’m a trainer, people pay me to get them healthy… and I’m here struggling and fighting for my life, so that should say something if you think that you’re superior or that your immune system is stronger than everyone else’s,” O’Hagan said.
“Take my mistake and learn from it.”