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COVID-19 survivors speak: 'You feel breathless and you understand it may be your last breath'

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Virus Outbreak Germany
Virus Outbreak Germany   -   Copyright  Axel Heimken/(c) dpa/Pool
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Every day, the numbers associated with the global pandemic get bigger; so big, it's hard to put them into perspective.

At least 870,000 people are sick with COVID-19 globally. Over 43,000 people have died. And every day, death tolls are sorted and analyzed by country. Italy saw two days of more than 800 deaths this week so far; Spain has recorded more than 800 deaths per day for five days running. Each number is a person, who lost their life.

But there is another number that tells a different story. 185,241 people have recovered from COVID-19 so far, and that goes up every day. Those who do survive are telling stories of terrifying ordeals — but also of new hope.

Graziella Sonzonni is a COVID-19 survivor. She left sub-intensive care and was brought, like many others, to a hotel in Bergamo where nurses take care of her while she recovers.

"You are there on the bed attached to the oxygen, you feel breathless and you understand it may be your last breath," she said.

"When we'll be allowed out, I'll hug everybody and hold them very tight and let them understand how much I love them. My little great-grandson, I miss them all."

"You are there on the bed attached to the oxygen, you feel breathless and you understand it may be your last breath"
Graziella Sonzonni
COVID-19 survivor

At 90 years of age, Henry Marchais said he thought little of a fever until he started to experience breathing difficulties. Henry's wife Monique also tested positive. And together, the couple overcame the disease.

"The hospital called us at two in the morning to ask us to come quickly, because things weren't going well," said Monique.

Henry was placed on ventilation in the hospital, to help him breathe.

"I remember nothing from the night I almost passed to the other side," he said.

Though people over the age of 70 are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the majority of them still recover.

The World Health Organization stresses that the vast majority of all people who fall ill with the disease will recover, and according to the European Lung Foundation, most do not see permanent damage to their lungs. For someone with a mild or moderate case of COVID-19, it takes around two weeks to get better. For those with more serious cases, like Henry Marchais, it can take from three to six weeks.

Just one month after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, the number of recoveries there started to outstrip the number of new cases. Now, in Europe, that's a point experts are hoping to reach soon.