Unvaccinated fitness expert gets COVID-19, lands in ICU

Bill Phillips, health guru and former Denver Broncos nutrition expert, spent 47 days intubated in ICU and on a ventilator after getting COVID-19.

Bill Phillips, health guru and former Denver Broncos nutrition expert, spent 47 days intubated in ICU and on a ventilator after getting COVID-19.

Screengrab from Maria Phillips on Facebook

Maria Phillips walked through the doors of an intensive care unit in Colorado and saw her husband lying there.

Her husband, Bill, was the epitome of health — before he got COVID-19.

“I will never forget walking into the ICU for the first time and seeing my smart, strong, healthy, and full of life husband laying prone on his stomach, in a medically induced coma, because of all the damage COVID-19 was doing to his lungs,” Maria said Aug. 5 on Facebook.

Bill Phillips’ life isdedicated to health and fitness. He wrote a New York Times best-selling book on strength training and is the CEO and owner of his own nutrition company.

The 56-year-old even has two Superbowl rings after working with the Denver Broncos as the team’s performance nutrition and supplementation expert in 1997 and 1998. At one point, he could bench press 300 pounds and run a mile uphill with no problem, Bill told 9 News.

He never thought COVID-19 could knock him out. Bill chose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus because he thought he would be protected after already having the virus before, according to 9 News.

“I did not get vaccinated because I made a mistake,” Bill told The Denver Post. “I thought since I had COVID in January 2020, I was immune to it. That mistake came…close to costing my life.”

Bill was put into a medically induced coma and on a ventilator at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood to help him breathe, The Denver Post reported. He was intubated for 47 days and didn’t wake up for 18 days, according to 9 News. He lost 70 pounds.

His wife said she wasn’t allowed in his ICU room for 10 days because of safety protocols.

“I lived in the ICU waiting room, hoping I could stand outside his glass door for a few minutes just so I could catch a glimpse,” Maria said on Facebook. “I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, all my thoughts and entire being was consumed with praying for Bill to be given a second chance at life.”

Maria said on Facebook watching her husband fight COVID-19 was “some of the darkest moments,” and was “an immeasurable amount of pain and trauma.”

Both Bill and Maria are now urging everyone to get vaccinated against the coronavirus to hopefully save themselves from going through something like they did.

“If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody,” Bill told The Denver Post. “It’s not a political issue. It’s a public health issue.”

Maria said the opportunity for Bill to be on a ventilator in the ICU saved his life. In some parts of the country, intensive care units are at fully capacity. Not everyone can get an ICU bed when they need one.

In Oregon, a patient with COVID-19 died in the emergency department while waiting for an ICU bed to open. That mirrors what’s occurring across the country as the delta variant of COVID-19 causes a significant spike in cases.

Nearly 78% of ICU beds across the country are already taken as of Aug. 24, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Most hospitalizations are people who were not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

What to know about COVID vaccines

Any adult can get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. for free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday for people 16 and older.

Those 12-15 years old can also get the Pfizer vaccine under the emergency-use authorization still in place.

Both the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are still available for adults after they were authorized for emergency use at the start of 2021. No COVID-19 vaccine is available yet for children 11 years old or younger.

It is a common misconception that people who have been infected with COVID-19 before don’t need to get vaccinated against the virus.

Research has shown both infection and vaccination offer levels of immunity against the virus that help prevent people from getting sick, but permanent protection after infection is unlikely, McClatchy News reported.

In some cases, scientists found that two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines offered 10 times higher levels of antibodies than natural infection, McClatchy News reported.

“Vaccines actually, at least with regard to SARS-CoV-2, can do better than nature… They are better than the traditional response you get from natural infection,” White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a COVID-19 briefing in May.

Maddie Capron is a McClatchy Real-Time News Reporter focused on the outdoors and wildlife in the western U.S. She graduated from Ohio University and previously worked at CNN, the Idaho Statesman and Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism.