'I was on death's door:' COVID-19 survivor regrets risking his own life by not getting vaccinated

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A man who thought he didn't need to get the COVID-19 vaccine is now an advocate for the shot, after a very close call with the virus.

"If I hadn't come home when I did, he would be dead," Philip Coker's mother Kate McRorie-Coker said. She's a retired nurse whose training helped to save her son's life.

"I had the presence of mind to call 911," she said. "Stay calm and give them all the pertinent information when they did show up at the house."

Coker spent three weeks in the hospital battling the virus. That's when he realized how potentially dangerous it is to not get vaccinated.

"I just didn't want to get the vaccine," he said. "I was thinking that I didn't need it, that my immune system was going to be good enough to fight it I guess, just being ignorant. But my mindset is 100% changed. I need the vaccine, everybody needs to get the vaccine. The Delta Variant is insane. It's way, way worse, you know?"

Coker said he used to go to the gym 3-4 times a week. He said he thought he was in pretty good shape and would be fine if he caught COVID-19, but the Delta variant hit him hard.

"The only thing I was going through my mind was I don't want to die of COVID. I don't want to die, so I just kept on repeating that to myself, but I basically couldn't breathe. And I didn't, I don't really recall much that morning. I was on death's door, knocking. And because my mom saved me I'm still here, breathing."

"He's got all kinds of long-term medical issues that he didn't have prior to getting COVID," his mother said. "He did have a pretty quick turnaround but he's still on blood thinners for six months. He's using a walker to get around. He came home on oxygen. And he's going to have to go to physical therapy to get his strength back up and to be able to get back to work. Just walking down the stairs takes his breath away now."

While he recovers, he has a message for all people who remain unvaccinated.

"I'm definitely 100% for the vaccine, and telling people that they need to get the vaccine," he said. "No matter what you think, that this is politics or conspiracy theories, whatever. Throw that out the door and just get the shot."
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