Jose Perurena: "I was afraid of dying"

(ATR) A survivor of COVID-19, the Spanish administrator still undergoes testing for the return of the virus.

(ATR) The coronavirus pandemic has caused more than 555,000 deaths and 12 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The number of infected Olympic athletes has been low, close to 70 infected, most of them being retired athletes.

Among the retired Olympians, around 20 have died as a result of the coronavirus, according to research by Olympic historian Bill Mallon.

Among those infected in Spain was José Perurena, Olympic canoeing athlete at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, and the president of the International Canoe Federation and president of the International World Games Association.

Perurena is the only leader of a world federation that has been infected by the new coronavirus.

He tells Around the Rings he feared for his life. At age 75, he is a person at high risk.

"I have been wearing the oxygen mask the whole time since I was hospitalized and I was afraid of being intubated," Perurena confesses, recounting his story of being infected to Around the Rings.

"At the end of February, I started to feel uneasy. Days passed and we had a ICF Executive Board meeting in Barcelona. On March 18, I felt I had a fever."

"By then, the hospitals in Madrid were practically saturated. The doctors told me to take Paracetamol. That it could be a flu, but I never got a cold."

"The fever was increasing for days. By March 24, it climbed to 39.5 (103.1 Fahrenheit). They told me: When you can’t breathe, you go to the hospital emergency room. ‘If that happens to me, I die, what you told me.’ I thought."

"When I consulted another doctor, they told me: ‘Go to the hospital right now!’ I did tests and they detected the virus. I was immediately hospitalized. I spent 10 days in bed."

"Look, one of the doctors told me, ‘there is no medicine to cure this disease. I’m not going to hide it from you. I have to tell you the raw truth. Let’s see how your body reacts.’"

"The x-ray plate doubled my pneumonia. The condition was advanced. I was afraid of being tubed."

"On my third day there, I had an oxygen saturation of 81. ‘If you drop below 80, we’re going to have problems,’ the doctor told me."

"Having ‘problems’ meant moving to the critical intensive care room. Every day I was made lung plaques. I conversed with other patients in the radiology room. And they told me, ‘My mother, as I get like them… I never saw many more’"

"Can I tell you something?" I came to think, ‘I’m going to have to start a will…’ but it wasn’t necessary.

"That night when I was told that if I kept lowering oxygen, they would ‘intubate’ me. I remembered when I was an athlete and I had a Hungarian coach who before competitions, the night before and the next morning, forced us to do yoga.

"I passed the whole night doing a series of 10 deep, concentrated breaths, stopping for about 20 minutes, and I would do it again and again."

"Oxygenation started to rise and on the eighth day I did not have a fever. The treatment had been intense: I was given venom like I was bitten 10 times by a cobra. All kinds of antivirals; and they didn’t know which one I would react to. Through the vein, by pills, until one of those managed to attack the bug."

"They gave me 12 pills a day, morning and night, I had to try everything. I even took the bird flu. And if you don’t have a good body, that can lead to collateral problems in the pancreas, kidneys, liver.

"What happened most was thrombus in the lungs and legs. The people who did not have a good physical condition have suffered the most. That is why older adult residences have been the most slaughtered by the virus.

"Now without fever and with improved tests, I started a 15-day treatment in my house where I had a room with a bathroom all for myself. I infected my wife, but it was mild, she didn’t even have to be in the hospital.

"After a few weeks, I tried to exercise with my mountain bike, and I had no strength and I quickly went to the doctor. ‘But you’re crazy, you had double pneumonia. You need at least two months to recover decently," he told me.

"In late May, I was called back by the hospital for new tests to check for possible re-infections. All the tests went well and now on July 11, I finish with the larynx and ear tests. At the end of November, I’ll do it again. It is fortunate to have the Spanish health system."

"Now I have an antibody level of 7.6. I am immune to the coronavirus but it’s not known for how long because COVID-19 mutates. I still keep the same care, the mask, the social distance of two meters.

"I lost my sense of smell and taste; I ate whatever I wanted to eat. And I never had a marked respiratory problem. Also, confined at home, I didn’t test my lungs, I was making no effort."

"I lost 15 pounds, it is a treacherous virus. Friends of mine have died. My lifelong neighbor, since I started living in this house 30 years ago, didn’t have a fever. One day she had 34 (100.4 F). Ah, a flu. And one day she could not breathe, and she died in 24 hours."

"These days I am in a house in the mountains, 80 km (50 miles) from Madrid. I use my mountain bike for about 45 km (28 miles) daily, and other exercises. But for now, no planes."

Written by Miguel Hernandez

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