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'The vaccine will help normalize 2021' | Novant Health doctor overcomes tough battle with coronavirus

He warns even the healthiest person can experience a severe case of the virus, and that we cannot stop wearing masks or social distancing just yet.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A neurosurgeon at Novant Health is still experiencing lingering impacts of the coronavirus, six weeks after experiencing his first symptoms.

Dr. Eric Deshaies says the Pfizer vaccine, which arrived in Charlotte Monday morning, can be the light at the end of the tunnel. But it doesn’t mean people should let their guards down, even the healthiest people can get severe cases of the coronavirus. He knows that firsthand.

Dr. Deshaies starts every morning with a run or bike ride. He logged at least 100 miles a week, until the coronavirus knocked him off his feet.

“To get from one end of my hallway to the other, I had to stop for a break because I couldn't breathe,” said Deshaies, Senior Vice President for the neuroscience and psychiatry institute at Novant Health.

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He had been following all the precautions. He was working from home whenever possible and limited his activities outside of his house. 

He still can’t pinpoint where he would’ve been exposed to the virus. But one morning, he couldn’t get out of bed for his normal exercise.

“Every muscle in my body hurt," he said. "My hands, my feet, my neck and back."

In the 19 days that followed, the symptoms persisted.

"I lost all of my taste and smell, lost 5% of my weight, had terrible, terrible headaches and stiffness in my neck. I usually sleep at most about 4 hours a day and I was sleeping up to 16 hours a day,” he said. “It hit me hard. I always tell everybody; take the worst flu you've ever had and multiply that by 100 and that’s a mild form."

Luckily, his wife and two kids tested negative.

As coronavirus vaccines arrive in North Carolina, he’s ready to take it and encourages others to trust its ability to protect people from the virus.

RELATED: Answering your vaccine questions: One-on-one with the medical experts

“A lot of research has been done to prove it's safe; any possible side effects from it would not even be close to what I experienced in those 3 weeks,” Deshaies said. “No matter how healthy we are, it doesn't mean that we are immune to developing a very severe response from the virus. I do have full confidence the vaccine will help normalize 2021.”

Dr. Deshaies said he is still feeling some of the symptoms of the virus. Things don’t smell or taste like they used to and he’s still getting headaches.


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