Shocking before and after photos of a strapping 40-year-old athlete who was placed in a coma for 25 days after testing positive for the coronavirus show how even the fittest people are having to fight for their lives when tackling the killer virus.
Ahmad Ayyad was 215lbs of muscle on a solid 6'1' frame prior to testing positive for COVID-19 on March 15.
By the time he was discharged from the Johns Hopkins Hospital more than a month later on April 22, he had lost 60lbs.
'The day I woke up I was 153 pounds,' he explained in an interview on the hospital's website. 'My legs and arms were skinny and my chest was gone. I couldn't believe how hard it was to just get to the edge of the bed and stand.'
Ahmad Ayyad was 215lbs of muscle on a solid 6'1' frame prior to testing positive with COVID-19 on March 15. By the time he would be discharged from the Johns Hopkins Hospital on April 22, he would lose 60lbs
Prior to coming down with the coronavirus, the 40-year-old spent his time competing in challenging obstacle courses and spent hours doing weightlifting in D.C. area gyms and playing basketball.
When he wasn't working out, the fourth of nine children worked at his family's retail furniture business.
Ayyad began feeling symptoms associated with the virus on March 11, just days after returning from a trip to Florida.
He attempted to recover by resting and eating shorbat adas - a lentil soup popular in the Middle East - but found that that did little to alleviate his symptoms.
When he wasn't working out, the fourth of nine children worked at his family's retail furniture business. Ayyad began feeling symptoms associated with the virus on March 11
By March 14, the athlete struggled to catch his breath and couldn't even bring himself to make the drive to his local hospital. A physician friend of Ayyad convinced him to Uber to the Sibley Memorial Hospital on the next day.
It was there that Ayyad tested positive for both COVID-19 and Influenza A. He was placed on a ventilation and transferred to Johns Hopkins as his breathing grew worse.
He would become the hospital's third patient with coronavirus and the first to be placed on a ventilator
He became the hospital's third patient with coronavirus and the first to be placed on a ventilator, according to Dr. Natalie West. Dr. West was the pulmonary specialist who admitted Ayyad into the hospital.
Ayyad communicated by writing notes as he was unable to speak because of the ventilation tubes.
'We had a whole conversation with me talking and him writing,' West shared. 'The last thing he wrote on that piece of paper was, "Thank you so much for taking care of me." It brought tears to my eyes. He just seemed like a very sweet and kind person.'
But soon, Ayyad's fever sent him into a comatose state and he needed to have his breathing supported by a ventilator. Heavily sedated but delirious, he once removed his ventilation tube after growing agitated.
After removing the tube a second time, doctors determined that he was feeling well enough to not need a tracheostomy.
While he was in a coma, his parents would call every day to check in on their eldest son.
'My mom left me a voicemail the day I went into the ICU,' Ayyad shared. 'It was heartbreaking, her saying, 'Please call me, let me know you're doing OK.' She didn't believe my dad when he said they couldn't visit me. She thought he was just trying to protect her from seeing me in a coma.'
And while he was in a coma, his parents would call every day to check in on their eldest son
A few days after pulling out the tube for the second time, Ayyad was finally transferred to a COVID-19 unit in the hospital. As he left the ICU in a wheelchair, nurses clapped and celebrated for him.
'Everyone in the ICU was amazing,' he said. 'I really feel for them and appreciate everything they do. I hate that caring for me puts them at risk.'
Ayyad's post-ICU progress was monitored by Dr. Gigi Liu, a hospitalist and point-of-care ultrasound specialist, who described the patient as being so motivated to get better that he started walking around his hospital room within a few days.
The man was discharged from John Hopkins on April 22 with blood clot on his left arm and damage to his lungs and heart. He has been gradually putting back on the weight that he lost
'There's a certain group that once they're on a ventilator for a certain period of time, it's hard to come back,' Liu said. 'That wasn't Ayyad. He happened to be a super-duper fit guy before all this. I think that helped him.'
The man was discharged from John Hopkins on April 22 with a blood clot on his left arm and damage to his lungs and heart. He has been gradually putting back on the weight that he lost.
Ayyad wanted to immediately move in with his parents once discharged, but Dr. Liu advised against the gesture - stressing that the patient self-isolate for two weeks first.
'He asked if he could hug and kiss them after that,' Liu shared. 'I know he really wanted to, but we don't know enough yet about this disease and if the virus is still shedding, even though he tested negative twice. I saw the tears in his eyes when I said no. That was the one thing I disappointed him on.'
Once back at his D.C. home, Ayyad's parents were standing on the sidewalk waiting for his return. They had already restocked his refrigerator.
'Every day, I'm getting better and better,' Ayyad said. 'I'm slowly getting my weight back. I'm eating a lot; I'm taking walks outside.'
He described the killer virus as being one of the most difficult things he has ever had to endure.
'I get the flu every year, and I'm down for two or three days and then I'm better,' he said. 'This is not the flu. People need to be careful and know that it can happen to anybody.'