Ahmet Ilhan has lost four family members, among them his father, to COVID-19, and barely survived the disease himself.

With a new lease on life, the 50-year-old hospital worker from Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey regrets how his family “underestimated” the threat of the virus.

Still recovering from his harrowing experience, he hopes that his story can be a lesson for others and helps them understand the imperative need for caution.

Ilhan, an administrative supervisor at the Sanliurfa Harran University Hospital, was admitted to the medical facility with high fever, cough, muscle pain, and overall weakness.

He tested positive for COVID-19 and his treatment started but his condition rapidly deteriorated.

As he battled through a grueling fight for his life, Ilhan’s father, grandmother, and two uncles died of the coronavirus disease within a span of a month.

 ‘Unimaginable pain’

Ilhan wants people to pay “utmost attention” to safety rules such as social distancing and wearing masks – not just for themselves but also their families and loved ones.

“My father was infected when he attended a dinner last month. Soon, my mother had it too, as did my brother and I. Thankfully, she survived after treatment, but we lost my father, grandmother, and uncles,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“All of us underestimated the virus. The pain I have experienced was unimaginable to me. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.”

Ilhan said he owes his life and health to the “heroic efforts of our doctors and healthcare professionals.”

“I have exercised regularly for the past 15 to 20 years. I am neither a drinker nor a smoker, but still my condition was critical. I may not have been here today if I did not get the treatment on time,” he said.

“I now understand how valuable life is and how fortunate I am to survive.”

‘This disease is not a joke’

Dr. Mehmet Resat Ceylan, who works at the infectious diseases department at the Sanliurfa Harran University Hospital, stresses the need for people to learn from Ilhan’s ordeal and of others who have survived COVID-19.

“Ilhan’s experience should be an example for the public. This disease is not a joke; it has the power to take away your family members and friends,” he said.

“People must wear masks at all times. We must all avoid group activities. Winter is now around the corner and, while the decline in cases in Sanliurfa is good news, we cannot let down our guard just yet.”

See it as a warning or an expert’s advice, Ceylan’s words hold true for all of Turkey, where the current tally of COVID-19 cases stands close to 310,000, including 7,785 fatalities.

* Writing by Yunus Girgin

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