Lucky in cards, unlucky in life goes the saying. It has never been truer than for poker player and cabbie Ali Sakallioglu, who after 222 days in the hospital with COVID, has finally gone home. That is a long run of real bad luck.
222 days of COVID makes him the longest-suffering patient with the disease in the UK. And if there’s a COVID patient in the wider world who has been worse off for longer, Google is being mighty coy about it.
Sakallioglu has a few big wins at London tourneys, though he occasionally ventures out into Surrey. He does leave the home counties from time to time, going as far north as Dusk Till Dawn in Nottingham.
His biggest win was £23,280 for a 4th place finish at the £440 No-Limit Hold’em – 888poker Live Kick-Off Main Event in February 2018. But one imagines his biggest victory will always be this one, over a debilitating disease.
Eight 1/2 months
At the end of March, with the UK only just beginning to look at the lockdown option, Sakallioglu lost his sense of smell. After dialing 111 (the non-emergency medical helpline in the UK), he did as he was told and self-isolated.
As a type 1 diabetes sufferer, the escalation in his condition was not unexpected. And on April 3rd paramedics picked him up in an ambulance and shipped him to University Hospital Lewisham, in London. Doctors put him straight onto a ventilator when he arrived.
Four days later he suffered a massive heart attack. He went through a surgery that got his ticker back to ticking, and the next day the doctors put him into an induced coma.
At the end of May, the doctors trach’d him, slicing his throat open and feeding the breathing tubes in through the hole they made.
It wasn’t until July that the doctors pulled him out of his coma. It took another three weeks before he was well enough to begin physical therapy. Then it wasn’t until October that they could move him from a hospital to a care home.
On November 11th, 2020, Sakallioglu finally got to head back to his family. The whole street turned out to greet him at an appropriate social-distance.
Over the course of his 222-day ordeal, Sakallioglu suffered from sepsis, stroke, liver failure, kidney failure, that heart attack we talked about, and collapsed lungs.
“Send this virus packing”
After coming through all that, he’s still pretty optimistic. He told the press, “We can win this war like we won World War One and Two. If I can beat it, anyone can. I’m not some miracle.”
He forgets that Britain won the World Wars because America was fighting alongside Britain and feeding them cheap materiel on credit. Donald has a much less interventionist approach than Woodrow and Franklin D., and seems hell-bent on squeezing the U.K.’s N.H.S. till the pips squeak.
But, Sakallioglu called for people to follow the guidance. “We just have to unite,” he said. “Do what the Government and scientists tell us to do. We’ll eventually send this virus packing in a taxi. Never to return.”
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