COVID-19 survivor encourages others to get vaccinated

A COVID-19 survivor is trying to raise awareness about the importance of the vaccine. He opted not to get the shot, thinking he'd be OK -- but that choice almost cost him his life.

Robert Hughes is slowly rebuilding his strength after a life-threatening battle with COVID-19 this summer. The 53-year-old wasn’t vaccinated at the time -- a decision he now regrets.

“I was the kind of person that thought, ‘You know, I’ll be OK.’ But looking back now, I would take the shot a million times over,” Hughes said.

He was visiting family in Florida when he first got sick. He thought it was a cold, but his symptoms continued to escalate. So his fiancé encouraged him to take a COVID test, which came back positive. “It just got worse and worse. I couldn’t get out of bed much and, finally, my fiancée decided to take me to the hospital,” he said.

Before he knew it, Hughes was being admitted to the ICU.

“Then within a couple of days they said we’re going to have to intubate you,” he said.

Dr. Rajiv Sahni infectious disease specialist for Cleveland Clinic treated Hughes.

“We try to keep our patients with COVID-19 off of the ventilator as long as possible just because they are able to assist way more by their own energy and own breathing,” Sahni explained.

He said a few days after Hughes was intubated, his condition started to improve. And, while the worst of it was over, he still has to go through rehabilitation.

“When they recover, even when their lungs and their oxygen levels and the blood are recovering, it leaves them very weak,” Sahni said.

Hughes said the ordeal has been emotional for his family.

“I have an adult daughter and she said she couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep because she was worried. Make sure that I was going to make it through, this and that, she didn’t know what to think,” he said.

As he continues his road to recovery, Hughes encourages others to get vaccinated.

“Get that vaccination. You do not want to go through this,” Hughes said.