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LONDON (Reuters) - The death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom rose by 155 to 43,730, health officials said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, writing by William James; editing by Stephen Addison)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Shocking before-and-after pics shows toll the coronavirus took on fitness fanatic

Ahmad Ayyad didn’t seem like someone who would be high risk for the coronavirus. The 40-year-old athlete regularly competed in obstacle courses, ran marathons and boxed.

Still, he spent 25 days on a ventilator suffering from the coronavirus.

“I get the flu every year, and I’m down for two or three days and then I’m better,” says Ayyad, in a press release from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Washington, DC, where he was treated. “This is not the flu. People need to be careful and know that it can happen to anybody.”

“He had no reason why he would be at more risk than anyone else. But there could be factors that we don’t yet fully understand,” says Dr. Sandra Zaeh, a pulmonary and critical care medicine fellow at the Johns Hopkins.

In early March, Ayyad traveled to Florida for three days with his brother. On March 11, he spiked a fever and began to weaken.

Ahmad AyyadJohns Hopkins Medicine

Looking back, his symptoms were hallmarks of the coronavirus: coughing, sneezing and loss of appetite, CNN reports. Ayyad thought he had the flu. Four days later, he had trouble breathing and wasn’t strong enough to walk or drive.

Ayyad, who works at his family’s furniture store, took an Uber to Sibley Memorial Hospital. There, he was diagnosed with the coronavirus and the flu. His condition quickly worsened, and he was transferred to Johns Hopkins.

The strongman was swiftly placed on a ventilator, becoming the hospital’s third COVID-19 patient, and its first to be placed on a ventilator. Unable to speak, he would write notes to his care team.

“The last thing he wrote on that piece of paper was, ‘Thank you so much for taking care of me,’ ” says Dr. Natalie West, the pulmonary specialist who admitted Ayyad. He was placed in a medically induced coma, where he stayed for more than three weeks.

The next thing Ayyad remembered, he was waking up in a fog. Although he was once a 215-pound chiseled, muscled man, his tone had deflated. “I woke up and looked at my arms, my legs, and my muscles were gone. I was kind of freaking out, like where are my legs? Where did my legs go?” he tells CNN. He weighed 153 pounds when he woke up.

His parents were told “that I probably wouldn’t make [it] through each night,” he said in an Instagram post.

“‘My son is a fighter, he’s not going to die’ is the reply my father gave the doctors when they informed him I wouldn’t make it [past] the night,” he added in another post.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ahmad Ayyad (@ahmadbird) on May 13, 2020 at 3:19pm PDT

Although he was without a breathing tube, life was challenging for Ayyad in the ICU. For three weeks, he couldn’t talk or walk.

The first solid food he could muster to eat was applesauce. “I was so happy. That first bite, it felt so satisfying. Well, before I realized I forgot how to swallow. It’s like I didn’t remember how to eat. I had to learn that all over again,” he says.

He turned his hospital room into a mini-gym. Ayyad worked up his strength doing leg extensions in bed using a blanket, then lunges, then taking laps.

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On April 22, he was finally discharged. Ayyad developed a blood clot in his left arm and had suffered heart and lung damage. For the next month, it was a challenge to keep his breath while doing anything.

“Every day, I’m getting better and better,” Ayyad says. “I’m slowly getting my weight back. I’m eating a lot, I’m taking walks outside.” Now, he’s almost back to normal: He’s boxing and playing basketball again, and working out every day.

“It worries me a lot seeing people take [the coronavirus] lightly. I got it and survived, and I’m still terrified,” Ayyad says.

“Take it seriously. It’s not a joke. It can kill you, even if you think you’re healthy and immune to it. You’re not.”

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