Fitness coach on oxygen, using wheelchair after 2-month COVID-19 battle

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 1:37 AM MDT
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LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KUSA) - A former fitness coach from Colorado regrets not getting the COVID-19 vaccine after spending two months in the hospital battling the virus. He now uses a wheelchair to get around and has a long recovery ahead.

Bill Phillips hopes his experience with COVID-19 will convince others to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. The 56-year-old will leave the hospital Wednesday 70 pounds lighter after the virus almost killed him.

“Having to see Bill go from this person, so strong and full of life and happy, to this person that can barely stand up,” said Maria Phillips, Bill’s wife.

Bill Phillips says he made a mistake when he decided not to get the vaccine. He first caught COVID-19 in January 2020 and thought he was immune. A test found he had antibodies against the virus.

But then, he caught COVID again in June – and ended up spending two months in the hospital. He was intubated for 47 days and didn’t wake up for 18 days.

“I’m pretty sure the doctor said, ‘You have two choices: we can either intubate him now or he’s going to die on the table,’” Maria Phillips said.

With the former fitness coach now using a wheelchair to get around, Bill Phillips and his wife are on a journey he didn’t plan for.

“It didn’t help that I could bench press 300 pounds or run a mile straight up a hill,” he said. “I made a mistake. That mistake came that close to costing me my life.”

The stay at the hospital was painful for the couple. Maria Phillips explained how difficult it was to see her once strong husband suffering for so long.

“If Bill knew everything, the trauma, the pain, that I was going to have to go through every day for the last two months, seeing him so sick, I think he would have gotten vaccinated if he would’ve known how much pain it was going to cause,” she said.

Indeed, Bill Phillips says that if he had a chance to do it again, he’d do it differently.

“Get the shot. Get the vaccine. Get on with your life. Don’t take chances,” he said.

The couple hopes their painful memories will encourage others to get the vaccine.

“Getting so, so sick like this is so preventable. Most people who are vaccinated are not going to end up in this situation,” Maria Phillips said.

Bill Phillips plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine on his birthday in September. His wife got vaccinated while he was in the intensive care unit. Like her husband, she had previously had the virus and falsely believed she was immune.

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