The gruelling recovery of a man nearly killed by Covid-19 nearly FIVE MONTHS after he got the disease has been recorded in a series of remarkable behind the scenes footage.
Superfit builder Stephen Gilbert, 60, spent 26 days in an induced coma after contracting the virus in April but made a 'miraculous recovery.'
He was just 20 minutes from having his ventilator switched off.
Now nearly half a year later the dad-of-two is still suffering the devastating effects of the disease and making a slow and agonising recovery.
A photographer was given unprecedented access to a specialist pulmonary rehab team from the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust which is helping Stephen get better.
The specialist Covid-19 recovery team, thought to be the first of its kind, hope to help Stephen achieve his ambition of playing golf again one day.
Stephen has since made remarkable strides after learning how to walk again after his coma left him with muscle atrophy - the wasting or loss of muscle tissue.
However, despite the progress, Stephen said Covid may have lifelong repercussions to his daily life.
Stephen, from Dudley, West Mids, said: "I get so frustrated every day because I've always worked - that's who I am. All of my life.
"But now I can't do anything. It's impossible for me to work. I can't even form a fist with my hand.
"I can't even hold a screwdriver and that's my livelihood.
"People think you just recover from Covid and that's it - but it could be a lifelong issue.
"I sure hope it won't."
Stephen, who is Type 2 diabetic, said he was experiencing breathlessness when he was rushed to hospital on April 2.
Within five hours of arriving at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley his condition had deteriorated so rapidly he was placed in an induced coma to save his life.
It was the first time Stephen has ever stayed overnight at a hospital in his life.
But after being told he had pneumonia, he said his final goodbyes to his wife and kids - fearing the worst.
He said: "I felt a bit ill but I thought maybe I just had the flu - I was really hoping so, but it was Covid.
"I'm diabetic but I'm reasonably fit.
"But I had to call an ambulance because I just couldn't breathe.
"I have never in my life had a hospital stay - this was the very first time.
"They told me my body was not functioning and I knew it wasn't looking good.
"I spoke to my wife and my daughter, who is a nurse, and told them I loved them.
"It was a heartbreaking conversation that still haunts me today."
Stephen said his family have been left traumatised by the experience - as they waited each night for calls through the night to confirm that he hadn't made it.
The grandad said: "My family was waiting for the bad news, it was horrendous. They're still traumatised by it now.
"I don't know how but I made it - and I have to thank all of the doctors and nurses, because they saved my life.
"Even £1 million wouldn't be enough to pay them for what they've done."
After recovering from Covid, Stephen thought he could return to normal and get back to work.
But he now needs the assistance of an oxygen machine to help him breathe while doing simple tasks like walking and making tea.
He tries to exercise every day and has worked incredibly hard to get back into shape - but said he still feels excruciating pain.
He said: "I can't even do something like picking up a kettle to make myself some tea - something that should be second nature.
"It's like I have to start everything again.
"I had to learn how to walk, learn how to breathe, how to speak.
"Normalcy is out of the window."
Physiotherapists from the Dudley Group helped Stephen at his home twice a week following his discharge but despite his progress, he doesn't know if he'll be able to work again.
He is now going to exercise classes for post-Covid patients - which is something created for people like Stephen.
He said: "I hope it won't be a lifelong issue but I don't know.
"I need to get back to work but I don't know how realistic that is.
"I can't even put my own socks on at the moment.
"It's been infuriating.
"No one knows the timeline we simply do not.
"People think you get Covid, you overcome it, and you're fine.
"But the fight is never ending."
Stephen thanked the "tireless" and "dedicated" work of the doctors, nurses, carers and physiotherapists who saved his life.
Roughly 20 staff members, physios, occupational therapists, speech and language, dietitians, nurses and doctors have helped Stephen along his road to recovery.
He said: "They were incredible and dedicated and I can't say a single bad word about them.
"They were tireless and dedicated, and just top drawer.
"They risk their lives every day trying to save ours, and they do it so well.
"I wouldn't be here without them, and the only reason I'm getting any better is because of them."
Stephen belies that if people saw the realities of what Covid does to a person, they would take it more seriously as Britain braces itself for a second wave.
He said: "People don't take it seriously - but if they experienced any of this they would be wearing masks, they would be social distancing, they would take it seriously.
"This virus is a killer at the end of the day.
"They haven't seen the badness of Covid."
Catherine May, Pulmonary Rehab Team Leader at the Dudley Group, said: "People need to know you can be on death's door but with the right support, right education, you can get back to normal.
"Hopefully we can get him back on the golf course."