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SHANE MANNING Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A Dubai-based triathlete who's battled coronavirus in the city has made an ardent appeal to the public not to take the threat of the disease lightly as it can strike even the fittest if they are not careful.

Speaking to Gulf News over the phone from his hospital bed a day before being discharged on Thursday, Shane Manning, 42, said, “If coronavirus could get someone as fit and active as me so bad, what about those who don’t have health and age on their side? COVID-19 is not joke, please wake up and take it seriously.”

Sharing his experience of falling from the heights of fitness to the depths of despair in a matter of days, the Australian expat said, “I don’t mean to dramatise it, but coronavirus can be like a torture weapon. It can drag you down into a dark hole with your entire world going black. So be smart, be safe and embrace your downtime.”

Manning’s message is particularly significant because his case demonstrates how an individual’s level of fitness is not enough to guarantee a shield against the deadly virus, it can only help fast-track the recovery.

Committed triathlete

As a committed tri-athlete, Manning trained six days a week.

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Shane Manning trained six times a week and took part in many international events Image Credit: Supplied

“The triathlon idea began around three years ago when I was looking at making some lifestyle changes as I run two businesses and was consumed by my work. The fact that it combined three tough sports – swimming, cycling and running – appealed to me. So when I travelled back to Australia for my granny’s 90th birthday, a cousin of mine and I decided to sign up for the Half Ironman in Colombo. It was basically a reason to put myself through a training schedule.”

A Half Ironman or Ironman 70.3 is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation. The total distance covered in the race: 1.9km swim, followed by a 90km bike ride and a 21km run. A Full Ironman entails a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run.

Ever since, Manning joined a fitness group and began to train with elite athletes. He never missed an opportunity to work out, whether it was swimming with the “Tri Dubai guys” around the Burj Al Arab, run on the beach, go on long rides or just play coach for his son’s rugby team.


Just a ‘bug’

A dad to triplets, Manning said he always encouraged them to be outdoorsy. And ironically, it was with this same enthusiasm that he went out camping with the family and some friends two weekends ago, despite coming down with what he was at the time told was just a “bug” a few days earlier.

“It began to knock me down on March 15. Initially I just felt like I was getting a cold. After that came a lot of body ache, head ache, fever and lethargy. The fear of COVID-19 loomed large and I saw a doctor. I was negative for everything viral they tested me for – Influenza A/B etc. Since I had no history of recent travel or no known contact with a COVID-19 patient at the time, I was sent home.”

Although the next two days were a write-off with Manning staying in bed, he said he felt better on Thursday when the family decided to set out camping. “The kids had been stuck indoors and we thought we might as well go out for a change.”

However, they left the camp the next day because weather reports predicted a storm. “But when I got home, my fever began to rage again. Everything had magnified – the headache and the body ache - and I started coughing too.”

Veritable nightmare

The next few days were a nightmare.

“I was still in bed and by Saturday, we came to know that we were in contact with a COVID-19 patient. When I visited the private clinic this time, I was kept in isolation and my tests done. The next day I got a call to say that I had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.”

Manning, who was subsequently taken to a private hospital, had come down with full-blown pneumonia, with many of his vital parameters showing dismal signs.

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Shane Manning on a run Image Credit: Supplied

“My inflammation levels were up, saturation levels down and I was in a deep, dark hole. But I remained coherent and conversational despite the statistics suggesting otherwise. It was just that my body kept fighting and my mind did not allow me to give up.”

On Day 5 of being at the hospital, the fever finally subsided with the vital signs having improved

Three tests, 24 hours apart, since then confirmed that he is now negative.

Manning said his wife Suman, who has also tested positive, has shown no symptoms and is in self-isolation at home.

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Shane Manning with his wife Suman Manning Image Credit: Supplied

Life lessons

The past two weeks has taught Manning many lessons which he is out to share.

As he pointed out, “The coronavirus beast is brutal. It can annihilate you and that’s where perhaps your fitness and immunity levels count. But there is no room for slackness.”

From his hospital bed, he posted two Facebook videos on his experience, just so that his family and friends stay guarded.

“The videos have gone viral, excuse the pun,” said Manning. The strong plea he makes in them is  simple: Take coronavirus seriously; stay safe, smart and healthy.