Eric Florka is a husband, a father, a 22-year Local 105 member and a gas line worker based in Royal Oak, MI who is lucky to be alive today. He spent 44 days in the hospital with COVID-19. His condition became so bad that his family didn’t anticipate he would ever come home from the hospital. He recently spoke about his experience days after his 20th wedding anniversary. He has a stern warning to his fellow members.
It all started right before Good Friday. “I wasn’t feeling well and I thought it was my allergies, and I had shortness of breath and a cough,” said Eric. “I went home and went right to bed. My wife talked me into going to the hospital and I woke up in the ICU with a mask on.
I thought I was in a car accident. I tried to rip the mask off until someone told me what was going on.”
“I was on a respirator for three weeks getting oxygen at full blast and getting all the help the hospital could give me without a ventilator. I battled for a few weeks on the respirator. I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe. I couldn’t do anything.”
He was lucky to be a match for and receive plasma that was destined for another patient who recovered enough not to need it. According to Eric, it was a pivotal moment in his recovery.
Today he says, “I’m back at work but I still have to go to physical therapy. I have pulmonary issues and maybe permanent damage to my lungs.”
“What I’d really like people to do is, Monday morning, Friday after work, whatever, stop and real quick, take a look at something you never noticed before because I almost didn’t have the opportunity to do that again. We take so much for granted. Just getting out of my truck and walking in the door was a journey for me a couple months ago.”
His message to his fellow members: “I want people to know this mask that I wear isn’t for me, it’s for you, your wife and your kids, or your husband, or partner, anyone who is around. I am going to respect you to wear the mask and please, respect me and wear one, too. It’s serious. It’s out there. The disease is real and it can be deadly. The only way you won’t get COVID-19 is by social distancing, wear the proper PPE and mask up.”
To listen to his full story, check out the “Me You Us” podcast interview.