One man’s battle shows why covid-19 and obesity are a toxic mix
At 5-foot-9 and 248 pounds before covid-19 struck, John Place knew he needed to work on his health. In the scramble to run a small business and help raise four children, he ate high-calorie restaurant food every day. He never exercised. He was often fatigued and urinated frequently — warning signs of diabetes that he ignored.
When Place, 43, landed in a Florida intensive care unit in June, infected with the coronavirus and unable to breathe on his own, a brutally frank doctor put his survival chances at 20 percent.
“Your husband is morbidly obese, he’s diabetic, he has sleep apnea and the only thing he has going for him is he’s still young,” the physician told Place’s wife, Michelle Zymet.
Place survived 18 days on a ventilator and returned home, but his weight complicated his illness and care, and now is influencing his painful, laborious recovery.
Eight months into the pandemic, obesity has turned out to be one of the clearest predictors of a difficult battle against covid-19, for reasons that may vary from person to person. Some experts say they consider obesity to have contributed to the stunning coronavirus death and morbidity rate in the United States, which has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. And there is some evidence it is particularly harmful for people under 60, who generally fare better than the elderly against the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.