NEWS -- A Sault Ste. Marie man is hoping his experience with COVID-19 will serve as a warning to others about the seriousness of the virus.

The Sault business owner and endurance athlete said he contracted the coronavirus through close contact, despite taking every precaution.

Before becoming infected with COVID-19, John Santana said he would think nothing of hopping onto his bicycle and going for a 100-kilometre ride. Now, he said the simplest tasks require great effort.

“Doing something as simple as mowing the lawn the other day, doing a little bit of lawn care, bending over and then standing up and getting incredibly dizzy,” said Santana. “My freedom right now of being able to get on my bike and do any kind of simple exercise is taken away.”

Santana said it all started with mild flu symptoms, which quickly escalated to intense body aches, severe headaches, difficulty breathing and loss of energy. He said doctors have advised him that his recovery is far from over.

“If athletes get back to exercising too quickly, because there’s so much damage to the lungs and to the body, that if they get back to strenuous (activity) too quickly, they can develop problems such as thickening of the heart muscle and you can develop problems like arrhythmia.”

Santana wants the vaccine-hesitant and the anti-maskers to learn from his experience, heed his warning, get vaccinated and wear a mask.

To those who suggest public health requirements such as wearing masks is a violation of personal freedom, Santana said his experience has taught him that COVID-19 will take far more away from a person than wearing a mask.