A Covid-denier became a coronavirus safety spokesman after a bout of the virus forced him to have a tube that whistles installed in his throat. Anil Gharmalkar, 41, repeatedly played down the virus and insisted he either wouldn’t get it – or would only suffer very minor side effects if so.

But the truck driver from Kansas City suffered such a severe coronavirus infection he spent time on a ventilator, and had a tracheotomy. That saw doctors install a breathing tube, which now whistles and wheezes as Gharmalkar breathes while speaking.

The married father-of-two said: ‘It’s ridiculous and inexcusable, and I had a friend who was a critical care nurse in New York City and I heard what was going on there. And I firmly believed that as healthy as I was, I wouldn’t get it, it wouldn’t affect me.

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‘I even told my wife it wouldn’t be that serious if I got it. I didn’t think it would be in our region, it was a big-city problem. It was a problem for people seriously ill or elderly.’

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Gharmalkar fell ill with Covid after an out-of-town trip April, and spoke of his horror on testing positive after his nurse mother drove him to the emergency room without wearing any PPE.

He said: ‘My last thought before the ventilator was “Oh my God, I’ve killed my family.”‘

The trucker must wear a breathing tube after undergoing a tracheotomy procedure at the University of Kansas’s Health System hospital in Kansas City.

That also means he must take care while showering, as getting water inside the tube could put him in serious danger.

Gharmalkar says he feels sorry for his wife, who has spent the last few months fearing for her spouse’s life. But he now takes the precautions he once shunned – living in a small ‘bubble’ with his wife and two daughters – and urges others to do the same.

Gharmalkar told The Kansas City Star: ‘Anyone that comes into contact with us, everyone is masked up.

‘There’s a lot of concern since my recovery started over with our last visit to the ICU, I may not be able to withstand even a flu virus or something that might be (innocuous) at this time.’

Many patients who cleared coronavirus from their bodies continue to suffer what doctors are calling ‘long Covid,’ with symptoms including difficulty with breathing, memory loss and fatigue.

Coronavirus has now infected at least 12.26 million Americans, and killed close to 257,000 people across the US.

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