A father from Cornwall who survived a life-threatening case of coronavirus said the thought of living to see his three-year-old son got him through the terrifying ordeal.
Rob Flack, 50, and from Penzance, was treated in the ICU at the Royal Cornwall Hospital after contracting Covid-19 and not realising how ill he was.
He now wants to use his experience to remind so-called Covid-deniers that the virus is real and hospital workers should be treated with more respect.
Rob, who is from Ludgvan, said: "It’s vitally important to get the message across about staff on ICU – the people on there work so hard to keep people alive.
“You’ve got people taking pictures of empty corridors at the hospital. The reason they’re empty is because they’re trying to keep people out of the hospital.
"I don’t understand these people. This virus is happening and it’s happening to anyone.
"I asked the doctors how they felt about seeing people not wearing masks; the anti-mask, anti-vaxxers. They said they just have to bite their tongues.
"This is so, so wrong that these people are keeping people alive all day and then leave in the evening and see someone without a mask. If you can’t wear a mask, don’t go out.
“There’s no excuse for it – I’ve just been through it. I know how serious it is.”
Rob was rushed to hospital after he "avoided" getting the virus for so long, he said.
"I was trying to be a man and didn’t realise how bad I was getting.
"Basically I was trying to get through it at home thinking: ‘I’ll get better, I’ll get better’ but after a few days, I just couldn’t cope.
“I think I took it too lightly to start off. My friend said he thought I was dead when he came and found me."
Mr Flack's friend visited his house with an oxygen meter and found Rob's oxygen levels were significantly below where they should have been.
“My oxygen level was 72 – it’s supposed to be around 96/96. He rang his dad who’s a former consultant, who said: ‘Ring for an ambulance now’," Rob recalled.
He was rushed to the Roskear Ward at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro and given medication including steroids, but Rob's health quickly deteriorated.
He said: “I stupidly thought I was feeling okay that evening and went to have a shower. I can’t really recall anything from that point on.
“I don’t want to say I was dying but I got to that point where I was gone. I wasn’t compos mentis. I can remember them smashing me through doorways on a trolley to get to ICU.
“A nurse was with me and she was saying to me: ‘Come on, we’ll get you there, you’ve got your boy, you’ve got your boy’.
“I didn’t see any lights at the end of the tunnel or anything like that, but I just remember saying: ‘Let me go to sleep’.
"My head was telling me that I had to go to sleep. She was saying: ‘No, no, you’ve got your boy.’”
Rob said the thought of seeing his three-year-old son again is what helped him get through the nightmare of coronavirus.
“It was only the thought of seeing my little boy that got me through," he said.
"Every day on ICU I looked at a picture of that little boy’s face and cried my eyes out. He got me through.”
Rob is now back at home on what is called a 'Home Covid Ward".
“I’ve got something to test my oxygen, an app on my phone which reports back to them. It’s going to take me months to get back to how I was before, but I got out of ICU quickly – I’m very lucky."
He now wants everyone to appreciate the work being done by doctors on the frontline, including the nurses who cared for him on the Intensive Care Unit.
Mr Flack said: “People need to realise that staff in there are doing everything they can to save lives and they have to face people outside who aren’t helping at all.
"They’re seeing people die every day. There was a bloke next to me who was seriously ill on a ventilator.
“I’ll tell anyone to put their mask on if I see them without it – I’ll get arrested if I have to now. It’s not about me, it’s about the staff working on ICU.
"What if these people weren’t around? What if they had to stop working? What if they get ill? We need these people and we should treat them with massive respect.
“They’re superheroes – that’s what they are. Those superheroes saved my life.”
The 50-year-old said he did not have any underlying health conditions when he contracted the virus, so it "came as a shock" that he caught it.