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Athletic Sault man recovering after being ‘completely clobbered’ by COVID-19

Virus should not be taken lightly, John Santana says
20210517-John Santana photo supplied
John Santana. Photo supplied

The COVID-19 coronavirus can strike anyone, even the fittest.

Ask John Santana, a Sault small business owner, well known locally as an endurance athlete involved in bicycling, swimming and cross country skiing, having competed in five Ironman triathlon competitions.

Santana, 58, contracted the virus through close contact, despite having observed all government and public health COVID-19 safety precautions and restrictions.

He is now officially recovered, though still feeling weak.

“I got the go ahead today from Algoma Public Health that I’m free and clear,” Santana said with relief, speaking to SooToday Monday afternoon.

Still, Santana stated “I feel I need to educate people about this virus. This is not just another flu and it should not be taken lightly.”

“Some people will catch it and show no signs, some people will get it and show mild flu symptoms, then there's people like myself who get completely clobbered and then there’s people that end up in the hospital on a respirator, and then there’s people that die.”

Santana is critical of people who take part in rallies that protest COVID-19 restrictions, such as mandatory mask wearing, the right to assemble and restrictions on businesses, who state their rights and freedoms are being violated.

“This virus will take away all of your rights and your freedom to be able to breathe, your freedom to be able to exist,” he said.

A firm believer in wearing masks as a precaution against COVID-19, Santana said “this virus will, if you get it, remove you of all your freedom.”

Santana said he had been tested for COVID-19 April 27 and his test result turned up as negative.

Then he started feeling flu-like symptoms April 30, was tested again and learned he had COVID May 1.

“It started with deep, deep body aches that I have never felt before, that go deep, to your bones, I felt them in my knees and I felt them in my fingertips.”

Then there were chills.

“All I could do was go into a fetal position under a blanket and shiver.”

Santana said he took painkillers such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen to ease the pain in his aching bones.

“At night I would wake up into these full body sweats. One night I literally had to change my clothing three times. I was completely drenched. My pillow was soaking wet. All my clothes, I could wring them out, and I was completely drenched.”

“You're so exhausted that the last thing you want to do is get out of bed, but you have to get up and you have to change your clothing.”

Santana said he lost his sense of taste and smell after four days.

“I’ve gotten it back but it’s just not the same. Nothing tastes right yet…in the meantime, because I have no taste or smell, now I have no appetite, which means I’m not eating and I’m getting weaker.”

“And, I’m all alone so I have to do everything myself.”

“The cough is like a deep, dry pneumonia-like cough. It’s a constant, constant cough. I would get these coughing fits that would continue nonstop and it got to a point where my whole chest cavity felt like it had been hit by a car. I would get short of breath from the coughing.”

“The headache is like the worst migraine...and the headache lasted nonstop for four or five days.”

He called for paramedics May 11. 

With so many deaths around the world attributed to COVID-19, did Santana feel like he would succumb to the virus?

“The night before I called an ambulance, and the morning of, I was scared. I was scared and I’m not going to lie. I was scared,” he said.

Paramedics came to Santana’s home, took his vital signs and determined he was stable enough not to be hospitalized.

Santana, who is monitoring his breathing, commended Algoma Public Health (APH) for following up with him throughout the process to check on his condition, providing him with information and answering questions he had.

Happy that the worst of COVID-19 seems to be over for himself, Santana said “there will come a day where this will be over and we will go back to normal.”

In his late 50s, Santana’s age group did not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the APH area when he became afflicted with the virus.

APH has since announced adults 50 and over may now get the vaccine in the Sault and Algoma region.