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I'm a Doctor And This Is What COVID Did to My Body

"I had nagging headaches... I was delirious and had hallucinations."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received notification of the first case of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in the United States on January 22nd, 2020. Since then, the coronavirus has careened across the country with over 6 million cases and more than 184,664 deaths. As a doctor, I've seen the damage on the frontlines.

Even so, discussions have shifted from physical-distancing to schools reopening, while infection cases are still skyrocketing. Florida's positive test rate is over 12 percent as of September 4th, indicating insufficient testing, and over 14 cases per 100 thousand people. 

While around 154,000 people in the United States have recovered from the deadly virus, the COVID-19 symptoms can sometimes persist for many months. The virus can damage the lungs, heart, and brain, which increases the risk of those feared long-term health problems. Read on to hear how one doctor was impacted when he got the virus, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

"I Was Delirious and Had Hallucinations"

Word-renowned lung cancer specialist and medical oncologist Doctor Gilberto Lopes could usually run 5K in less than thirty minutes, in sunny Miami, Florida—but since he got sick with COVID-19, he sometimes needs to stop and catch a breath while walking. "I had a much harder time with COVID-19 than I could ever have thought," he tells me, "I am 46 years old, and do not need any medications." 

His COVID nightmare started mildly, with a runny nose and a sore throat, and then the fever broke. For the next ten days, he had temperatures that reached up to 102.8 F and would only get better with a combination of anti-inflammatories and acetaminophen.

Later, he began to experience shortness of breath while resting and started therapy with dexamethasone for COVID-19. His visits to the emergency room became frequent, as his oxygen saturation dropped, and soon enough, he was admitted to the hospital. "I had nagging headaches, what many COVID-19 patients have been calling 'brain fog,' and I was delirious and had hallucinations."

Dr. Lopes started to feel better after receiving remdesivir for COVID-19 and antibiotics. Still, he experienced difficulty breathing, and even while he was receiving oxygen, he felt uncomfortable. His COVID journey was made better by the nurses and hospital assistants, who are even fearing contracting the disease themselves, still found time to stop by and share a check-in every day. 

He lost about 14 pounds in the whole process and could not focus or concentrate enough to watch TV. Although the coronavirus may cause a loss of sense of smell, he never experienced it but struggled with heartburn and delayed gastric emptying, making it a little harder for him to regain the weight. 

"The thoughts of getting worse and requiring mechanical ventilation assaulted my mind constantly," Dr. Lopes shares with me, adding that he still worries about not going back to his regular exercise capacity.

RELATED: COVID Mistakes You Should Never Make

The Virus is Gone But He is Not the Same

Five weeks into it, he is back to work, and his brain fog is gone, but he says that he still hasn't recovered the same stamina as before COVID. "I did before the virus, and I still haven't been well enough to even think about running. But I am improving day and by day, and I hope to get there soon," he shares.

While we still don't know who will get sick or more severely ill with COVID-19, even healthy and fit individuals can have a severe form of COVID. More than ever, Dr. Lopes is back to fighting cancer and urges people to adopt wearing face masks, and is hopeful for a vaccine. As for yourself: to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leo Nissola, MD
Leo Nissola, M.D. is an award-winning immunologist and scientist. Follow him on Instagram @DoctorLeo and on Twitter @LeoNissolaMD. Read more about Leo