A fit and healthy Sydney man who contracted the coronavirus 18 months ago now faces the shocking reality that he needs a life-saving heart transplant.
Self-proclaimed ‘fitness addict’ Rob Hodgson collapsed in his home for six months after he believed he had made a full recovery from Covid-19.
The 38-year-old prosthetist had developed a cough a few days after returning from a work trip to New York last March and soon developed severe back pain.
Rob Hodgson, 38, (pictured) contracted coronavirus 18 months ago and despite full recovery, he now faces the shocking reality that he needs a life-saving heart transplant
Rob’s fitness-minded wife Amanda was also infected with the virus, describing the pain as “glandular fever on steroids.”
“It was like I had this thing in me eating away every ounce of energy I had,” the performance coach told the Daily Mail Australia.
“We’re super fit and motivated people, I thought – is this the reward we get for making an effort to be healthy?”
Amanda said she could barely walk from her bedroom to her bathroom and that she was bedridden for several days during the two weeks it took the couple to recover.
Not the last ones to make Covid-19 laugh, the couple plunged into a fitness program to prove to themselves that they had made a full recovery.
Rob, a cycling enthusiast, took part in an epic 1,300km bike ride in October to raise money for childhood cancer. The healthy couple could never have expected what would come next.
Amanda said her husband had cycled the home gym at their home in western Sydney on a seemingly normal day last November.
Rob’s fitness-minded wife Amanda (pictured) was also infected with the virus, describing the pain as ‘glandular fever on steroids’
After complaining that he wasn’t feeling well, Amanda said she assured her husband it was probably just the heat, and didn’t think twice about linking his condition to Covid-19.
Just 45 minutes later, Rob collapsed in the living room, his Apple Watch recording his heart rate at a rapid 210 beats per minute.
Paramedics treating the fitness fanatic advised him to see a doctor the next day, but ultimately decided he didn’t need to go to the hospital.
Amanda said the irony was that NSW Health had asked the couple to come to Westmead Hospital for a checkup six months after recovering from Covid.
Rob had decided not to attend his test due to work commitments, and he told his wife that he didn’t think the test was necessary because of how fit and healthy he felt.
While the performance coach was in the hospital, she casually told the doctor about her husband’s unexpected collapse, whose reaction surprised her.
“I called him and said they seem concerned about your episode,” she said, adding that the doctor had made an appointment with Rob for a cardiologist the same week.
The 38-year-old had an echocardiogram test that showed his heart was too weak to pass a “stress test,” which involved running on a treadmill.
Rob was eventually diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that limits the amount of blood the heart can pump around the body.
The 38-year-old prosthetist (pictured) had developed a cough a few days after returning from a work trip to New York last March, but only developed heart problems in November.
Medical specialists determined that the coronavirus had left extensive scars on his heart after it swept through the organ.
“It’s not common, but it happens. People usually just recover,” Amanda explained.
“The amount of blood he’s pumping out of his heart is very low, so the good muscle that doesn’t have scars is really stretched.”
Cardiologists urged Rob to have an internal defibrillator fitted, telling the patient that he might never need it again, or that it might save his life.
Amanda described this period of their lives as “really tumultuous,” with Christmas just around the corner and her children, ages 7 and 9, starting to ask tough questions.
The next big blow to his recovery came on January 5 when Amanda heard a bloodcurdling scream from the home gym.
She ran downstairs to see her husband leaning on the kitchen bench, trying to absorb the painful shock of his defibrillator going off.
Amanda told her husband to lie down and breathe, but his heart couldn’t regulate it, leaving him with a second shock from the defibrillator just 45 seconds later.
Rob has described the sensation for his wife as the feeling of touching an electric fence but getting the pain from ‘inside’.
Six months later the defibrillator went off again, just like the father of two children himself to four
Just as the father of two had overcome a lot of fear surrounding the device and started, the defibrillator went off again.
Cardiologists from Westmead Hospital advised Rob to get an internal defibrillator urgently so that the patient might never need it again, or it could save his life
Six months later, the defibrillator went off again, just as Rob had overcome his fear of the device by doing cardiac rehab on his bike.
The 38-year-old went for heart surgery at Westmead Hospital last Monday, with the results bringing more disturbing news to the family.
Rob’s cardiologist said the remaining muscle in his heart was headed for heart failure and referred him to a transplant specialist.
Amanda said from her own research that the average waiting time for a heart transplant is six months, for which she says she is grateful.
She said that since meeting him 20 years ago, Rob has had a passion for health and exercise, with his love of sports being a big part of his identity.
He is allowed to take long walks, but can only exercise when Amanda is home, who watches him in the home gym to make sure he is safe.
Amanda said it is sometimes difficult to spend time in the cardiac ward surrounded by unfit and elderly people seeking the same treatment as her husband.
The performance coach said she recently had a “tough day” where she couldn’t help but feel shaky and emotional.
“I wake up every morning with one eye open, unsure of how I’m going to feel every day,” she said.
Sydney’s mother said she was forced to speak to Rob in “nooks and crannies” of the house because her two sons don’t know how far along their father’s condition is.
“They know he can’t exercise and has less energy, but we do need to talk about it,” she said, adding that she wanted to wait until the school holidays were over.
Amanda said since sharing their story on social media, the family has received an “incredible” response with both strangers and friends ready to “spring up and help.”
“It was wonderful to share our story, it really helped us,” she said.
“I’ve always been candid and honest about sharing the good and the bad in my life. High performance is learning how to get back up when you’re down.”
Amanda (pictured) said since sharing their story on social media, the family has received an “incredible” response with both strangers and friends ready to “spring up and help”