Gregory Sylvander was a healthy 38-year-old with no underlying medical conditions when he contracted COVID-19 in November of 2020. He was ill for more than a month and his lungs became so damaged he required weekly oxygen therapy treatments. We interviewed Gregory to see what it was like to go from regular high-impact workouts to struggling to tackle a flight of stairs.
When the pandemic began, did you take the virus seriously?
When COVID first came I thought it was being overblown and was more like a bad flu that happened to old people.
Did you think you would get it?
No, not at all. I was healthy and always wore a mask in public and washed my hands all the time. I wasn’t worried that much about it because I believed I was strong and healthy enough not to get it or not get really sick.
What was your health like before you got it?
Excellent I’d say. I worked out six times a week; I lifted weights, did cardio, and twice a week went to Jiu-Jitsu.
Do you know where you may have gotten it?
No idea, but if I had to guess, I’d say at the hair salon. A couple of days before I began coughing, I went to get a haircut, and I was the only person there wearing a mask. The woman cutting my hair put one on for me, but it was almost always below her nose. Thinking back on it, I should have left right away. Please, guys, wear a mask, and when you go to the gym, wipe the equipment down after you use it and keep your distance.
You said you were coughing; was that your initial symptom?
Coughing at first and then loss of taste. I thought it was allergies.
How long were you sick?
That depends on how you want to look at it. I was really sick for a month. I had a fever over 101 on and off for two to three weeks, and at night it got worse. I’d sweat and had strange nightmares. I ended up with my lungs so damaged I needed weekly oxygen treatments. The side effects lasted for a while, I struggled to breathe normally for months, and I still can’t exercise like before. I get out of breath very quickly.
What did having it feel like?
It was hell, and it felt like it would never end. The worst was the non-stop chills at the beginning. No matter how many blankets I had, I was always cold. For two months, I had no taste or smell. Not being able to taste your food is a lot worse than you’d think it would be.
Six months after your diagnosis, how do you feel?
I’m doing good but still not 100%. And honestly, I don’t know if I ever will be again.
Will you get the vaccine?
Yes, I can’t wait!
What do you say to young and healthy people who don’t take the virus seriously?
Maybe you would be lucky and not get sick like me, or maybe you don’t care. But, take a moment to think about it. Do you really want to lose the taste of good food and beer, lose your strength to do things you like to do, not have the energy to go out and have fun with your friends? A lot of people out there have been lucky and not got it, but you never know. You could be one of the unlucky ones like me.
If you have questions about COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccines, click here to visit the CDC’s resource pages.