Personal Trainer Experiences Easter Like Never Before
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New York City
“I battled sicknesses in the past, but nothing like this,” says Dan. “This invisible enemy, this opponent, much greater than any I’d ever faced before.”
Mid-March 2020—New York City was in a panic. Seemingly overnight, the corona virus had evolved from a breaking news headline to a city-wide crisis. Schools, stores, churches, transportation, gas stations, gyms—everything shut down. For personal trainer Dan Venezia, it was unlike anything he’d ever seen. Then, out of the blue, he began experiencing body aches. Being an athlete, he’d been sore before, but never like this.
“My body hurt to the touch. It felt as if I was being...repeatedly tackled by an NFL lineman, over and over again,” says Dan. “I thought I’d given myself a really tough workout. But then it was to the point where I could barely move.”
In the days that followed, other symptoms began to manifest. To keep his wife and two sons safe, Dan quarantined himself and prayed for the best.
“11 straight days I had a fever of 103 degrees...nonstop headache, pounding like a-a sledgehammer in my head,” says Dan. “Shortness of breath, tightness in my chest. If I tried to take in a deep breath, it was as if I was inhaling broken glass. I couldn’t get the water down; I couldn’t get the food down. I had lost my-my taste and smell,” says Dan. “And I’m praying every day that, you know, this is not a serious thing and that I can break it and I can bear it.”
But after nearly two weeks of worsening symptoms, Dan knew what it meant. A COVID test at a nearby urgent care confirmed it—Dan was positive.
“I said goodbye right here, right at this counter, to my wife of 22 years and my two teenage boys, not knowing if I’d return home to them,” says Dan.
On the morning of Palm Sunday, Dan checked himself into the hospital where doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia. Later that night, his fever spiked to 104 degrees, and his oxygen levels plummeted below 90.
“It was the worst night of my life...this disease, this virus, was greater than any opponent I’ve ever faced before,” says Dan. “It knocked me out physically...I wanted to escape. I wanted to rip the IV out of my arm and the oxygen out of my nose.”
Confined to that hospital bed with no one by his side for support, Dan became overwhelmed.
“The television was on, and it was spewing out the death toll numbers. And they were showing overcrowded funeral homes. They were showing morgues and-and nursing homes,” says Dan. “I was questioning God and I was thinking about not being there uh to send my boys off to college and not being there for their weddings,” says Dan. “I went in as a man of faith, but I began to question the very existence of God and His will.”
Then, through the words of the late favorite American nun, Mother Angelica, Dan found the faith to keep fighting.
“My eyes were closed, and I hit the channel up button by mistake,” says Dan. “And, it was Mother Angelica saying the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer. The words that Jesus taught us. And I prayed alongside with her for 30 minutes or so, giving me that spiritual food that I needed for my soul, and there was an army of God’s angels, both living and dead, storming Heaven’s gates for me. I felt it,” says Dan.
And Dan wasn’t alone in his prayers. For that same night, more than 5,000 church members from Dan’s cathedral tuned in to a virtual service to pray for his recovery.
“COVID may have taken over physically and mentally, but it was no match for the power of prayer,” says Dan. “I’d get a text message, or an email, or phone call from a friend or a family member that encouraged me. I had former teammates sending prayer chains across the country. Parents from the high school that my boys attend, having prayer sessions. And when I tell you that I could feel those prayers, uh I knew there was no doubt that I would beat this disease,” says Dan.
The very next day, his fever broke. For Dan, it was evidence of God at work.
“Jesus Christ was the best doctor that I had, and the best medicine I was given was prayer,” says Dan. I was so set on the mission on getting home to my wife and my boys, and I knew that Jesus was there with me every step of the way.”
Quickly, his body recovered and his breathing improved. And by that Thursday, just four days after being admitted to the hospital, Dan was cleared for release.
“As they wheeled me out, I had a pain-free awakening at the moment,” says Dan. “It-it was as if God had let out a subtle yet powerful exhale. And I took in a breath for the very first time in two weeks, that did not hurt.”
That Easter Sunday, Dan celebrated the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection...and the miracle of his healing.
“It was a very different Easter than any others that I have experienced because this is like getting another-another shot at life,” says Dan. “I had lost 25 pounds. COVID had ravaged my body, had taken over my mind. But the one thing I did not let it break was my spirit,” says Dan.
Since that Easter, Dan shares his story with anyone in search of hope for healing. More than ever, he is grateful for the life God has given him here on earth...and eternally.
“The first thing I do is take in a deep breath,” says Dan. “I am so blessed. I-I won’t say lucky. I am blessed to be able to share my story, this testimony with others, in an effort to provide them with hope,” says Dan. “That there’s a God out there that genuinely cares, a powerful God that lends His hand healing and restoring. It’s the greatest love story ever told--that God sent His only Son to die for you and for me, that Jesus rose for you and for me so that we shall not perish but have eternal life,” says Dan.
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