HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former athlete recovering from COVID-19 says he is lucky to have survived and was brainwashed by misinformation.
"I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even walk 10 steps," said Andres Perekalski, who is now home, tethered to an oxygen tank.
On the night he arrived at Memorial Hermann Hospital, Perekalski said he could barely breathe. To make it worse, the emergency room was so full, he had to wait six hours for a hospital bed.
The father of two told ABC13 he was asking for a vaccine from that bed, certain he was going to die.
"In your head, you go through many things, your kids, your family, why didn't I get vaccinated?" said Perekalski.
The local restaurant owner said he chose not to get the vaccine because he was swayed, even brainwashed, by misinformation.
"You hear so many bad things about the vaccine, through people, through social media, through a lot of things," he said.
Even when Perekalski's wife got vaccinated he chose not to, steadfast that he was young enough and healthy enough to fight the virus if he caught it.
He is 43 years old. He doesn't smoke or drink, and is a former pro soccer player. But now, he says all of that was a false sense of security.
"COVID doesn't care about your age, doesn't care about your health, it doesn't care about anything," Perekalski said.
Dr. David Callender, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System, said Perekalski is one of hundreds of young, healthy patients unvaccinated and now tethered to lifelines in the hospital.
"It's really the young and middle-aged group that's been hit the hardest by [the delta variant] and of course, that's the group that has the lowest overall vaccination rates," said Callender.
He reminds us that the three vaccines in the U.S., Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna, were each tested on tens of thousands of people, and have already been administered to hundreds of millions.
Despite getting the vaccine, Perekalski's wife tested positive for a COVID breakthrough case. But he told ABC13 she had mild symptoms and was able to recover comfortably at home.
"Do it for your kids, do it for your family, do it for yourself," said Perekalski. "Even if you don't have a family or you don't have kids, nobody wants to die."