Coronavirus Chronicles — Who Catches COVID-19?

One of the most insidious pieces of misinformation spread by purveyors of nonsense is that healthy people don’t catch the virus. In that alternate universe, if anyone comes down with the plague it’s their own fault, for being an overweight couch potato or some other kind of contemptible loser.

Social media, in particular, can be a swamp. For some reason, a lot of Facebookers and Tweeters have a vested interest in convincing the world that only the defective people, the fat and the feeble, get COVID.

But even last year, there were stories of healthy and non-geriatric adults being laid low. Back in May of 2020, when the virus was still an ambitious novice, such reports were available, supplemented by before-and-after photos illustrating the point.

The first case discussed here was so long ago, this fellow was only the third COVID-19 patient in the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the first to be placed on a ventilator because of it. Otherwise, that mechanical breathing apparatus is mainly used to keep patients alive during open-heart surgery; and even then, the goal is to discontinue its use as soon as possible.

Before and after

Ahmad Ayyad was on a ventilator for 25 days. The experience is so dreadful, the patient’s every instinct demands that they rip out the endotracheal tube and use it to beat the nearest torturer. A conscious person cannot be expected to endure it, so almost a month of Ayyad’s 40-year life was spent in a medically induced coma.

During that time, his 6’1″, 215-pound physique shrank by 60 pounds, and when he finally came around, he said, “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.” Did Ayyad deserve this for being an obese slob? Before COVID, says journalist Karen Nitkin…

[…] he competed in demanding obstacle course races that had him scrambling over walls and under barbed wire, lugging heavy objects, and traversing monkey bars and rings. On a typical day, he’d work in his family’s retail furniture business, then box and lift weights… He played basketball several times a week.

Ayyad had been, in other words, a superbly fit human — just like Mike Schultz, a Registered Nurse whose story appeared in the press the same month. Before: 43 years old, 190 pounds, no underlying health conditions, a gym rat who rarely missed a workout day. After longer than a month unconscious on a ventilator: An almost skeletal 140 pounds, with reduced lung capacity, and too weak to hold his cell phone. “It was so heavy. I couldn’t type because my hands shook so much.”

When interviewed by the press, both men had the same message for the public: It can happen to anybody.

A person can be in the prime of life, with no pre-existing conditions, conscientious about every aspect of health, and still almost die from COVID-19. Don’t listen to friends who say theirs was like a bad cold or the flu — there is no guarantee that yours will be. Even if a patient is sick enough to be chemically rendered unconscious and sleep through most of it, the experience will not be quickly recovered from, and will never be forgotten.

Don’t believe those who say healthy fit grownups can’t catch COVID, or kids can’t catch it, or people of a certain astrological sign can’t catch it, or any of that noise. Don’t catch it. Okay?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ahmad Ayyad: Getting Strong Again After COVID-19,”, 05/13/20
Source: “Nurse’s before-and-after COVID-19 photos show effects of weeks on ventilator,”, 05/22/20
Image by frank_hb/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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