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Sydney doctor Warren Lee, whose family were North Otago market gardeners but no longer live here, has shocked the world with his description of how Covid-19 crept up on him and caused lasting damage.
Dr Lee’s case highlights the potentially severe and long-term effects of Covid-19 on relatively young people with no known risk factors. He had just turned 50, and was an avid cyclist.
“I like to think I’m reasonably fit,” he said on the video posted on Facebook by the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies. The video has been viewed by more than 1.3 million people.
He was seeing flu patients at his Sydney practice on April 1, wearing a mask and full-sleeve gown.
“It all started just as a slight sore throat.”
In keeping with guidelines he stopped working and went to a drive-through clinic to have a swab, then went home and stayed there for the next 29 days.
Dr Lee said it was “quite a shock” to test positive for Covid-19 – the first case he had seen.
For five days he had fever, coughing, back and neck pain, headaches and nausea, and his sheets were soaked with sweat every two to three hours.
Then he felt a bit better, but from day seven onwards he was short of breath and could not finish a sentence without coughing.
After biking just 1km to the barber one day, he had an irregular heartbeat.
His colleagues sent him to a cardiologist, who found an abnormal heart rhythm. He was told not to exercise and wore a cardiac monitor.
“About six weeks after being cleared of the virus at work, I had an epileptic seizure,” Dr Lee said.
He did not remember the fit, but spent four days in hospital.
Scans showed his brain and lungs looked OK, but an EEG (electroencephalogram) revealed he had new onset epilepsy.
He was no longer allowed to ride his bike or drive and was put on medication.
A further scan showed he has a scar right down the middle of his heart by the virus. So he is not allowed to exercise either.
Dr Lee urged everyone to be careful about Covid-19.
“What we’re going through in July is absolutely no different from where we were in March.
“I think social distancing is the only thing we have. Nothing else works.
“It’s going to be hard, but I think we just have to adjust, because if you get the virus the chances are you’re probably going to be fine – you might be OK – but there’s every chance you may not be.
“And that has a massive impact to your lifestyle.
“The 1% fatality rate – you don’t get to choose who that 1% is.
“It could be your mother, your father. It could be you.”