‘It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done’: man living active lifestyle gets COVID-19, recovers

Man who stays active, works out talks about his recovery from COVID-19

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The guy that hits up the home gym some four to six times per week and pushes life to the limit might not be the first person you’d picture getting the coronavirus.

“I was not prepared for this,” Francesco Ciccone said. “I did not think I’d be able to get this.”

Ciccone says he can almost pinpoint the moment he contracted the virus. It was after a work trip to New York during the beginning of March.

At 55-years-old, Ciccone found himself at odds with this novel virus.

“This went up and down,” he said. “I felt great the first day after my diagnosis. That was the beginning, and it just got worse from there.”

Francesco "Chez" Ciccone says he leads an active lifestyle, with no underlying health conditions. He was shocked to get the novel coronavirus diagnosis.
Francesco "Chez" Ciccone says he leads an active lifestyle, with no underlying health conditions. He was shocked to get the novel coronavirus diagnosis. (Source: Francesco "Chez" Ciccone)

It’s important to note that Ciccone doesn’t have an underlying health condition.

By mid-March, Ciccone’s temperature spiked and reach 102°. He was struggling to breathe. A quick 10-hour stay in the hospital and Ciccone, who goes by the nickname, Chez, was home and feeling good.

“I felt as if I had beaten it,” he said. “All the symptoms I was feeling the day before were no longer there.”

But that sense of relief didn't last long. His immune system took another hit.

“Sunday came back with vengeance. It really beat me up again," he said.

Chez was admitted for the second time. This visit included a stay in ICU. His oxygen levels were as low as 54 mm Hg at one point, with a pulse over 125. He doesn’t remember much of it.

”It was quite a blur,” he said.

His wife, Deborah, says he was delusional, but she documented it all and updated family through social media.

Francesco "Chez" Ciccone and his wife, Deborah. Chez discovered he had COVID-19 on Friday, March 20.
Francesco "Chez" Ciccone and his wife, Deborah. Chez discovered he had COVID-19 on Friday, March 20. (Source: Francesco "Chez" Ciccone)

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Not one of them, the hardest thing I’ve done. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Ciccone said.

The days got lonely with no visitors allowed. This health journey was emotionally painful for this glass half full guy.

“Not getting better in a quick period of time is defeating and frustrating," he said.

He lost 22 pounds because he didn’t have an appetite. He also had knee surgery just a few days before his diagnosis.

“I had arthroscopic meniscus scope, left and right side on my right knee,” Ciccone said. “It was unbearable. On top of that, not being able to breathe, not being able to focus, not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel was quite defeating at times.”

Chez is on the other side of it now. He started his work out routine again Wednesday, April 15. He’s not 100% better just yet though.

“It’s not a full breath. I take a deep breath and it feel as if there’s holes and air is escaping," he said.

This risk taker is no longer pushing the envelope. He says he’ll be riding in the slow lane of life from now on. Things have changed.

“Slow down, appreciate the small things in life. Life is precious,” he said. “I’m not sure that those boundaries need that much pushing anymore.”

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