There are often stories from people who have gone to the brink of death and returned. Stories of
drastic character change where the inescapable truth of one’s immortality forces people to look into
themselves and see what is truly valuable, what is truly important in life. Ebenezer Scrooge turns
from a greedy miser to the most generous man in London when confronted with the possibility of a
funeral without grievers, Saul turns from a villain to a saint when blinded on the road to Damascus.
In essence, a brush with death is supposed to imbue one with a clarity of mind. However, in the real
world this is often not so. In Dominic Marsh’s case it is the very virus which brought him so close to
death which kept poisoned his mind and left it bruised in ways which none could foresee.
When Dominic returned home, he was unable to move from one room to another without a Zimmer frame. His thin, emaciated legs too weak to carry him. The first thing he wanted to do was to have a shower, unwittingly he had subjected himself to his first physical and mental test. Firstly, how could he get into the shower? This body which was once filled with strength and power had been sucked of all its vitality, of all its substance and left a husk. It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to suddenly find yourself helpless when you had previously prided yourself on your ability to hold your own. He called for his father “papa, I need your help”. Dominic’s eighty-five-year-old father dutifully helped his first-born son into the shower. As he was about to step in, he turned and looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. What he saw chilled him to the bone. It looked as if his father, was helping his father, into the shower. Dominic immediately burst into tears. This would be the first and last time he would cry at the sight of his body. As the owner of a gym with 38 years of experience building other people’s bodies up, Dominic was in the unique place to know exactly what he had to do to bring himself back into shape. It was time to implement a plan of action due to his three week coma, during which he was connected to a dialysis machine for kidney failure and ECMO machine which involved a tracheostomy to help him breath, he had gone from a healthy heavily muscled 16 stone and 4lbs to a drastically emaciated 11 stone and 2 lbs. This was the first thing that needed to be addressed. He focused on increasing his intake of calories through diet and the use of supplements. This was the easy part; the difficult part would be the workout routine he would need to undertake to bring him back to health.
Since his arrival home Dominic had been itching to get back into the gym. His first session was going to be an indication of what lay ahead. It was not good, it had taken him five minutes to cross the small floor of his gym with a Zimmer frame he was so weak. He had been so weakened by the virus that he could not even bench press a bar without any weights on it. He had to start literally, from scratch. There was no muscle memory, there was just intelligence, He decided to start off using solely the machines. There were three reasons for this, stability, flexibility and the most importantly, safety, After three weeks of this, in which he was focusing on strengthening the muscles around his joints, he introduced the three basic exercises for muscle building. These are the squat, deadlift, and bench press. On his first attempt to squat he could only do three sets of ten just sitting up and down on a bench and with no weight. If you’re going to improve heart and lung capacity this was it. Initially he thought he was going to have a heart attack and needed to lie down for fifteen minutes. He could feel his heart pounding in his back. Every exercise was as if he had never done training before in his life. All his muscle memory had vanished, his lung capacity was low, his hands and shoulders were very weak, and due to his three months in bed he had lost a great deal of mobility.
As the weeks went by every session saw an improvement. The machines had done their job.
It was time to move to free weights, three sets of weightless squats for ten had transformed in
sixteen weeks to a set of five with 200 kg. He’d gone from being unable to bench at all to
benching 120 kg for five reps. When he’d first attempted the deadlift, he thought his back
would break after dead lifting 60 kg for five then by week sixteen, he was lifting 210 kg.
It takes a great deal of mental fortitude to even attempt something like this. As anyone
who had naively joined a gym at the start of the new year then abandoned it by the end of
January could testify, it is daunting enough to start from scratch. But to have built one’s
whole life around fitness and health and then find yourself back at the beginning would seem
an almost insurmountable challenge to many. Every week was as hard as the last as Dominic
struggled desperately to claw himself back to health each time going for what feels like world
records. But with the help of his brother he persevered. In order to help with the mental
strain, he devised a unique training plan . He started alternating his workouts so that one
week he would go to his limit and the following week he’d go light and give his muscles and
mind their much-needed rest. Another important part of Dominic’s rehabilitation was weekly
deep muscle sports massages which doctor Edwina the same doctor who had saved his life
As Dominic was focusing on increasing his calories to fuel his recovery, the two main
foods he was eating were carbohydrates and proteins. Breakfast would include four Weetabix
with fruit on top, semi-skimmed milk, toast with honey, and a cup of coffee to fight the
fatigue that the virus had given him. Lunch and dinner consisted of foods with a high amount
of carbohydrates, often pasta or potatoes with sauces rich in calories. He would take
supplements of zinc, vitamin C, and creatine as well as protein shakes. Between meals he
would eat plenty of fruit washed down with semi-skimmed milk. This was all with the
purpose to return Dominic to a healthier weight to build upon. This diet had two main
objectives. to get bigger and to get stronger!
While his physical recovery was progressing at a steady pace, all thanks to Dominic’s
expertise, his mental recovery wasn’t producing as encouraging results. Due to heavy damage
that he suffered to his right temporal lobe, his ability to rationalise emotionally was severely
affected. Often, he would repeat words and stories in the middle of conversations. Other
times he would forget simple words that before would have come easily to him. Another side
effect of his brain damage is that huge swathes of his memory that was lost, he had made
phone calls to whilst in hospital and subsequently at home, he had no recollection of these
conversations. A cruel symptom of the of what the virus had done to his memories was to
completely erase details regarding the recent end of his relationship with his long-term
partner. Two years of this relationship had been totally eradicated from his memory.
It is now believed that the virus had cemented its hold in Dominic at least approximately six weeks before his hospitalisation. A unique situation highlighted this
strange symptom of the virus. When his girlfriend of six and a half – years walked out on him
without a word Dominic barely responded. There was no anger, no resentment, no anguish,
only an overwhelming sense of numbness. The night she left Dominic had returned home
from work at nine thirty pm. She had gone without any warning. He spoke to his brother who
had come around, tidied his house and went to sleep without a care in the world. There was
no reaction whatsoever. Over the next few days, this nothingness continued. In times of type
of emotional strain, usually Dominic’s training would take a heavy hit but instead he was
doing the best he had done in decades. It was as if all his emotional functions had shut off,
leaving his body to work like a machine.
As the understanding of the virus continues questions are being answered.
Apparently, the virus can trick the body into feeling fine right up to the last minute. This
would explain Dominic’s ability to train so hard almost right to his hospitalization. Within
seven days of his last mammoth training session, his body would turn black and he would be
rushed to hospital with lungs so filled with mucus that they showed up as solid white on an
x-ray. The damage to his right temporal lobe would leave him unable to rationalise emotional
reactions for months.
When Dominic came out of hospital, his memory of his girlfriend’s leaving him had
gone completely. He had made telephone calls to his ex-partners, his family, the doctor who
had saved his life, he had even called the police accusing the hospital of kidnap. He to this
day still has no recollection of any of these conversations. He does have texts that he sent that
are absolute gobble de gook which emphasise the damage that was caused at the time.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the ending of the relationship prior to the
hospitalization was the most serious consequence of the damage to the front temporal lobe.
To Dominic the relationship had been idyllic the whole time and her leaving came out of the
blue. His memories consisted of parties and family get together and fantastic holidays.
Subsequently Dominic would spend weeks talking to anyone that would listen, asking the
same questions, “where is she, she should be here by now, I nearly died!! “ . To Dominic this
event had happened a few weeks ago. In reality nearly four months had passed. Dominic’s
family and friends would look at each other incredulously, bowing their heads,
One day in the gym it took Dominic’s brother to loses his temper and tell him all the things
that had been wrong with the relationship for Dominic to realise what the virus had done to
The brain damage had caused Dominic to forget the events in his relationship going
back almost two years and instead putting him in the mindset of what he perceives as a better
Realising that there was obviously something wrong, Dominic decided to consult the
doctor who had saved his life when he collapsed in the gym. Initially she thought it may have
been Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to an armed robbery which had occurred the year
before. Basically, two armed assailants, one with a knife and taser and one with a gun had
broken into Dominic’s house while he was inside. They made him open his safe take out his
money and then tasered him three time whilst making their getaway. On hearing them leave
Dominic jumped up grabbed a crowbar and managed to catch up with the armed robbers. He
struck the main perpetrator with the crowbar from which the police obtained DNA which
resulted in the assailant’s arrest and incarceration for nine and a half years. However, after
studying the MRI scans it was clear that Dominic was experiencing these mental problems
due to brain damage caused by extensive bleeds in his brain.
This drastic memory loss is the most impactful of side effects that came as a result of
his brain damage. But there was other side effects .Chocolate which had once been a
favourite guilty pleasure now smelt revolting as he could only smell the fat and sugar but not
the cocoa, his hand-eye co-ordination had been drastically affected as he could no longer hit a
dart board with a dart and instead hit the wall several inches to the left. When his brother
snapped at him in the gym whilst he was rambling about his ex-girlfriend Dominic was
completely unable to muster an emotional response. Another thing that people where finding
strange was Dominic’s lack of emotion about the predicament he had been in, even though he
had nearly died none of it seemed real to him. His daughter and sister had to have counselling
regarding his battle with COVID-19 but he seemed un moved by it all.
Often when he spoke to his family he would be condescending and rude without realising. It
seemed as if the virus had removed the socialisation that people build up over time and now
had to relearn how to read social cues again.
Though the larger effects of the brain damage have faded away, there are still
problems which need to be addressed. Whereas before he was in a state of perpetual calm due
to the emotional centre of the brain being affected by the virus, his emotional responses have
gone a full 180 degrees and now he has to stop himself from losing his temper at the smallest
thing or bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. There is clearly still a long way to go before
Dominic is back to full physical and mental health. One of strangest symptom of all is the
fact he has no recollection all the phone calls he made whilst in hospital to his family, friends, ex-girlfriends and even to the police and the inappropriate conversations he had but has no recollection of, he can only apologise to any other people he has inappropriately called. The list grows daily. He is continuing with his
rehabilitation and making remarkable gains. His mental state now seems back to normal. Although processing memories with his emotional capabilities intact have been exhausting for him. We will keep everyone posted with future developments.
If you have had COVID and you are struggling with your physical or mental rehabilitation do not hesitate in contacting Dominic either through his website www.domsgym.co.uk or call him on 07803005482.