HGTV Star Eric Eremita Details Surviving Coronavirus After 2 Weeks on a Ventilator

The 51-year-old contractor had no preexisting conditions, and is unsure where he contracted the virus

eric eremita
Photo: Eric Eremita/Instagram

Just two and a half weeks ago, HGTV star Eric Eremita was in a fight for his life against the coronavirus.

The celebrity contractor, 51 — who rose to HGTV fame on Jonathan and Drew Scott's Brother vs. Brother and starred alongside Hilary Farr on Love It Or List It — spent three weeks under the care of doctors and nurses at Staten Island University Hospital in New York. Two of those weeks were spent on a ventilator.

The Staten Island-native says he has no preexisting conditions that would have made him more susceptible to the deadly virus. His first symptom was a high fever, but it wasn't until he began to get dizzy and lose focus that he knew he was really sick.

"For me, I'm a guy who does things with precision," Eremita tells PEOPLE. "I'm a contractor, so for me, an eighth of an inch makes a difference. When I couldn't zero in on things, I knew something was wrong."

Shortly after he started feeling sick, his wife Joanne, 44, did too, so they each went into self-quarantine on separate floors of their home. Meanwhile, their three kids — Mia, 17, Eric Jr., 15, and Evan, 12 — camped out in the basement. Eremita says they called the city's coronavirus hotline in order to get an appointment to test for the virus, but days passed before their call was returned.

"They didn't get back to us, and I started getting worse and worse," he recalls, noting that he started having trouble breathing. "Then one day my wife came to me and said, 'You don't look good. Can you breathe? You're turning blue.'"

She called an ambulance immediately. "I got to the hospital and, believe it or not, it's kind of a blur from that moment until I woke up off the ventilator," Eremita says.

HGTV Star Eric Eremita Survives Coronavirus
Courtesy of Eric Eremita

Eremita says his body originally fought the ventilator, which pumped oxygen into his lungs and body — and carried carbon dioxide out — while he was unconscious and no longer able to do so on his own.

Eventually, he accepted the machine and his life became dependent on it.

"It took a real toll on my family," Eremita says of being on the ventilator. He says he's glad his kids had some schoolwork to do to keep themselves somewhat distracted, but that they were still "frantic."

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After two weeks on the ventilator, Eremita says the doctors became worried. "They told my wife, 'If it doesn't come out tomorrow, we're going to have to figure out something else,'" he says. "Then she got really nervous."

The next day, he became well enough to be taken off the ventilator, something which Eremita attributes to the power of prayer. "If you believe in God or not, there's a God out there. He helped me," says the father of three.

HGTV Star Eric Eremita Survives Coronavirus
Courtesy of Eric Eremita

He was moved to the ICU, where he became conscious enough to talk to his family via FaceTime, which was very emotional for all — including the healthcare professionals who had been taking care of him throughout his time in the hospital.

"The nurses were amazing," Eremita says. "They were rooting for me, they were all my team members and were praying for me."

He says he still receives messages from the staff on Instagram, as they continue to check on him and wish him well. He has also received plenty of kind words from the HGTV community since the scare — from fans and stars alike — including the Scott brothers, his former castmates. "It's truly overwhelming how much love came in from every angle of the earth," he says.

After three weeks, when Eremita was finally ready to go home again, the staff filled the hallway for a celebratory parade. They cheered him on as he was wheeled out, as can be seen in the heartwarming video below.

Eremita says it was all incredibly emotional, and he never would have expected so much love from strangers. But the doctors and nurses saw him as a beacon of hope during the pandemic, which had already claimed so many lives.

"They're calling me their miracle," Eremita says. "No one else in the hospital that I was in that was on a ventilator walked out alive. I'll be honest with you, it made me very, very humbled, and reminded me to appreciate life."

eric eremita
Eric Eremita/Instagram

Back home now, Eremita says he's undergoing physical therapy to help him walk again after being on the ventilator, and is taking antibiotics to manage a case of pneumonia that came after the coronavirus.

"Every day is getting better," he says. "They told me I wouldn't walk without a walker, but now I walk just fine. I got a bit beat up, but I'm the comeback kid."

The family is using the traumatic experience as a chance to teach others that the coronavirus must be taken seriously.

"If you think you can't get it, you're mistaken. You're really, really mistaken if you think that you're Superman or Superwoman and you cannot get this virus," says Eremita, who still has no idea where he may have contracted it, or from whom. "It's serious and it's deadly. Wear your mask, wear your gloves."

The contractor plans to get back to work and filming as soon as he can, making sure that he doesn't push himself too hard as he eases back into it.

HGTV Star Eric Eremita Survives Coronavirus
Courtesy of Eric Eremita

For now, he's focusing on what's most important to him: his family.

"It puts the bigger picture in perspective, and what's important to you in life and what's not," he says of his experience. "Don't sweat the small stuff, you know? It's not worth it."

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