Six months after Michigan announced its first positive COVID-19 cases, Consumers Energy gas distribution employee Eric Florka feels fortunate today to have survived a threat to his life and provide an example of the need for people to protect themselves from the powerful disease.
Florka contracted COVID-19 in April and spent 44 days in the hospital with an 105-degree temperature that ravaged his body to the point his limbs were incapacitated. He said his family was told death was near.
“This virus is the real deal, (and) I can’t stress it enough,” said Florka, who lost 40 pounds in two weeks.
“Do what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from this deadly disease,” Florka added. “Start by masking up. It’s not really too much to do to protect yourself and those around you.”
Florka, a 21-year Consumers Energy employee, said he still experiences guilt about why his life was spared while over 180,000 people have died in the pandemic’s wake.
“It’s something I think about all the time,” he said. “Maybe I’m here to spread the word on the importance of masking up. So, that’s what I’m doing. It’s an important message.”
He began his battle on April 9 when a co-worker said he didn’t look or sound well. He thought it was just allergies and that he was fine. As a precaution, he went home for the day.
Over the next several weeks, he found out how devastating COVID-19’s grip could be while hospitalized. He lost his sense of smell and endured a fever that peaked at 105 degrees for almost a week. He was so weak he couldn’t walk, and it was just recently that his legs and arms returned to full strength.
Fortunately, a match for Florka’s blood plasma was located and within days after receiving the transfusion, he was on his way to recovery.
Now back to his full-time job with Consumers Energy, Florka said he feels like a different person; one who is so grateful to breathe in fresh air, play golf with his son, watch his daughter ice skate and have family dinners.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” he said. “I vowed when I was laying in that hospital bed for all of those days that when I got home that I would discover something new each day; do something that I have never seen, heard or smelled. I have done that every day since I have been out. I will for the rest of my life.”
Florka also discussed his illness and recovery in a podcast. To listen, go to https://www.buzzsprout.com/1218548/5130910-covid-journey-with-eric-florka
Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest energy provider, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and/or electric service to 6.7 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.