After a year of helping treat coronavirus patients, emergency room nurse Danny Plata, 38, found himself being treated by his colleagues as the virus threatened his life.
Eight months ago Plata, a father of two, caught COVID-19 and nearly died. The ER nurse is now sharing a strong message for those who remain unvaccinated.
"I got close to dying, but I'm still here," Plata said.
Pata said he was partially vaccinated when he caught the virus in early January. He remained optimistic until he knew he needed hospital-level care.
“I started getting short of breath, had a dry cough, and that just got worse throughout Saturday night," Plata said. "By Sunday, I couldn't move. I felt like I got hit by a truck."
Plata tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent to the hospital where he was later put on a ventilator.
"It was pretty scary being able to understand what they were saying and knowing their plan if I wasn't getting better because I understood," Plata said, describing times he'd overhear doctors as they huddled at his bedside.
Plata relied on his Sharp Memorial Hospital colleagues for months. He spent 41 days in a coma, followed by intubation, and then weeks of sheer will, fighting to stay alive.
"There were times that I just didn't feel like pushing, but she got me up, made me walk, made me do my thing," said Plata about his nurse. "She was amazing."
Plata is on medical leave while recovering at home. He walks, drives and cares for himself, but he still has a long way to go. He's also reflected on his time in the ER during the beginning of the pandemic.
"It was very rough, we saw a lot of death. Probably more death than a normal person is meant to see in their lifetime," he shared.
And now, as the Delta variant spreads across the country and San Diego County, Plata fears the havoc this new wave of the disease might bring on his colleagues.
"We were burned out eight months ago. I can't imagine the nurses now that have worked this whole pandemic," he said.
Plata said he's frustrated for those who choose to be unvaccinated.
"When people are not willing to do their share to make the community better, it just puts more pressure on the medical system. We can't keep going at this rate," Plata said. "I want the community to understand that this vaccine can save your life and you don't want to be asking for the vaccine in your death bed."