A couple from Sydney, who caught Covid early last year after the virus had just hit Australia, now face a massive health battle 18 months later.
A Sydney man is still grappling with the lingering effects of the coronavirus, more than 18 months after he and his wife caught the disease, fearing he would soon be put on a heart transplant list because of the virus.
Amanda and Rob Hodgson were among the first people in Australia to contract coronavirus when Rob returned from a work trip to New York City on March 13 of last year.
The next day, he had started to cough and on the 18th he tested positive for Covid.
Amanda, who spoke to news.com.au about the battle for her husband’s health, tested positive on March 21.
Ms Hodgson said the couple had been ill for two weeks, both suffering from joint pain and coughs.
However, the couple, who were both fit and healthy at the time of their diagnosis, appeared to make a good recovery after two weeks.
Amanda said the couple even went through a fitness program “just to show us we’re okay” after hearing how Covid could impact their health.
Everything seemed to be fine for the Hodgson family – Rob, 38, even taking part in a 1,300km charity run for childhood cancer in October of last year.
However, things changed in November, when Rob was training in the family garage on his bike.
âHe was doing a walk in the garage on the wind trainer and was dizzy, he told me he thought he was going to pass out,â Amanda said.
“But it was a very hot day so we ignored it, we figured that must be it.”
Half an hour later, Amanda was serving dinner for the family when Rob called her from the living room.
He was lying down and his heart was beating fast, at 210 beats per minute.
An ambulance was called, with paramedics telling Rob he didn’t need to go to the hospital, but advising him to see a GP within the next 24 hours.
Amanda said her husband’s health issues came at a particular time, with the couple receiving text messages from Westmead Hospital encouraging them to come for a check-up six months after their Covid diagnosis.
Rob’s text had arrived a few days before he collapsed but, due to his form and health, he didn’t think it was necessary.
Amanda went for her six-month Covid check-up at Westmead Hospital two days after her husband collapsed, making a casual comment on the situation to doctors.
âI said, ‘I don’t know if it’s important, but my husband collapsed a few days ago’ …
After extensive testing and a number of cardiology appointments, Rob was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that prevents the heart from pumping enough blood throughout the body.
Cardiologists recommended Rob be immediately fitted with a defibrillator, to shock his heart if it beats irregularly or stops beating completely.
Doctors studying Rob believe the Covid infection passed through his heart and “caused scarring, disrupting the way his heart is supposed to work,” Amanda said.
âDoctors have said the scars look exactly like what happens when the virus passes through your heart. “
Cardiologists at Westmead Hospital in western Sydney have asked to write a medical article on Rob, in order to better study his condition.
âThis is the first such case for them, but they’ve seen enough cases overseas to tell him to see a specialist right away.
“We haven’t had enough cases here and of course here it’s a slim chance, but when you hear there’s a small percentage of risk – well, that number is made up of people and it’s hard for us to ignore. ”
Rob was fitted with the defibrillator on December 16 and was returning to exercise, training slowly on his bike, when on January 5 he had another episode.
âI’ll never forget him. He shouted my name and stood next to the bike telling me he was shocked by the Dfib,â Amanda said.
As Rob lay down to try and calm his body, the Dfib shocked him again.
Paramedics were called, telling Rob the Dfib probably saved his life.
Since Rob’s first heart attack in November, the family has since struggled with the mental and physical toll of it all.
“(Rob) faces a lot of fear and loss, he had just started doing a lot of cardiac rehab to get back on his bike when he was shocked again.”
Rob had surgery last week, with doctors delivering more poignant news.
After stopping her antiarrhythmic drugs before surgery, to allow doctors to try to find exactly where the arrhythmia was coming from in her heart, doctors said they hit a wall.
âThe doctor told her, ‘I couldn’t see where your arrhythmia was coming from, which probably means your heart muscle isn’t working and you are having heart failure,â Amanda said.
Rob is now booked to see a transplant specialist next month, with the doctor likely recommending that the 38-year-old be put on the list for a new heart.
The family met with the transplant specialist earlier this year, who expressed shock at Rob’s diagnosis.
âThe doctor said ‘we don’t see 38 year old guys with this’,â Amanda said.
âThe transplant doctor said there was no reason to put him on the list because he is functioning quite well and is in good shape, he does not appear to be in pain. heart failure.
The couple asked if the drug and Dfib would keep Rob’s heart long enough, but medics said he would likely experience heart failure in the next 18 months.
The couple are also grappling with telling their two sons – aged seven and nine.
âEverything is a bit busy. I’m a performance coach so I’m normally very positive, but it sucks, âAmanda said.
“We haven’t talked to the kids yet (about the transplant)â¦ we’re nearing the end of the school vacation, so we’re just trying to make some happy memories before we get back into pessimism.”
With the average wait time for a new heart in Australia being around six months, Amanda said the family “are on our toes and are ready when the time comes”.