By Jim Donovan


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Eyewitness News told you about the emotional post from Philadelphia restauranteur Tony Luke revealing his son Michael’s battle with COVID-19. Luke says his son is one of the lucky ones and his battle with COVID-19 was one of the scariest times in his life.

Luke says his son went home from work on March 20, thinking he was just coming down with a stomach bug. After more than a week with a high fever, stomach problems and a cough, he went to the emergency room where doctors intubated him.

Luke says that everyone needs to take this virus very seriously, for themselves and for others.

He says the health care workers that cared for his son are angels and that they are the ones who need our thoughts and prayers.

Luke joined Eyewitness News Thursday morning to discuss Michael’s fight and the heroes who saved his life.

Q: First, how is your son Michael doing? 

He is doing really well, thank God. Really well.

Q: This had to be a shock to you. Explain to me when did Michael find out he was positive for COVID-19? When did the symptoms start? 

Michael left work on March 20 with a 101 fever, he thought he had the flu bug. Then he started getting a lot of stomach problems, GI problems, so he assumed he had a stomach bug because he was vomiting, he could not eat much, had all the class symptoms of a stomach bug. Thinking well, if it’s stomach related, it can’t be the COVID because that’s the information they were getting. For eight days he couldn’t get his fever down. On the eighth day, he developed a cough and it wasn’t until the 28th he developed a cough. March 31 he had an interview with his doctor and he started to have shortness of breath and he immediately asked him to get to the emergency room. And he went to Jefferson in Washington Township because he lives in New Jersey, I live in Philadelphia.

Immediately when he got there, they took him up and I didn’t know this until after, thank God because I was already a nervous wreck, I was numb when I found out, he had said to me the doctors said, ‘Listen, we are going to put you in a comatose state and tube you.’ I remember he said, ‘You know I don’t want to die, please tell my family I love them, my daughter and wife I love them.’ And the doctor said, ‘You’re not going to die, you’re going to be OK.’

Then, they tubed him. What they did immediately was amazing, they ran a pick from his neck to the top of his heart and they pumped the medication directly into that so that the medication would be shot through his entire body being pumped through his heart at a very high rate. It didn’t have to go through anything. It went right from his neck into his heart. They gave him both medications immediately when he went in. He was on a ventilator for 60 hours and the perception is once you are on a ventilator, you know, I remember praying and praying, I had so many friends and family praying. They called me and said, ‘We’re going to take him off the ventilator, we’re going to try it.’ Because their fear is they don’t want to take them off the ventilator and then God forbid have to put them back on it, because there’s a chance for infection and ventilator is very invasive, but they shut the machine off and monitored him all night while he was on the ventilator, but his oxygen levels stayed up. What scared me, people have to realize we’re told to do all these things, but we don’t realize when we cough in public and don’t cover it, when we sneeze, don’t wear masks when we have one, if we want to go out and hang on the corner, we do these precautions not just to protect ourselves but to protect others. Michael didn’t know where he got it, no one around him was sick. Maybe he touched something, walked around a corner after someone had just sneezed and it might have been airborne.

Now he’s 35 years old with no underlying health problems. And he said to me, ‘Dad, it was the worst experience of my life, it felt like I died twice.’

Q: What would you say to all the health care workers working around the clock to treat patients like Michael and others across the country? 

The doctor made a point to call me. Michael said the nurses were around him 24/7, that the doctors were in there and I had said to him, ‘It must be nerve-wracking for nurses.’ Now, my youngest son Joey is in school, he graduates to be a nurse next year. When I said to him, ‘Isn’t it scary?’ He says, ‘Dad, nurses and doctors take an oath to save people’s lives even it if puts their own in jeopardy.’

What do you say to a superhero? Because that’s what they are. What do you say to all the people who prayed nonstop for him? I’m a man of faith and I believe God hears prayers and with the medical community now, all I’ve been praying for is everyone on the frontline aside from my family and friends because without them my son wouldn’t be here. And I also believe without those prayers my dad wouldn’t be here.

My son came off the ventilator and said, ‘Dad I came off the ventilator and made it.’

And it’s way more serious than people think it is, but there is hope. People recover. People have to understand that this is not a joke, this is not something you’ll get a little sniffle, a little chest and you’re going to be OK. The scary thing about this virus is it affects everyone differently. You can get mild symptoms and others can get slammed.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW.