GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Corey Spencer always knew he wanted to save lives as a firefighter. He got a job with Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department, never imagining one day his life would need saving.

“Nobody ever sits there and thinks it’s going to be your last day,” Spencer said. “It almost was.”

Days into Spencer’s COVID diagnosis in May 2021, he went to the hospital for shortness of breath. That’s where his health took a turn for the worse.

“I remember lying in the hospital bed, and I woke up, and I couldn’t breathe,” Spencer said. “I got up, ripped my IV line out of my arm, and I ran towards the door, and I screamed for help. And then that was it. I don’t remember anything else.”

Spencer went into cardiac arrest and would spend the next three and a half weeks on a ventilator in a medically induced coma. When he finally awoke, life was different.

“I had zero mobility. I had a feeding tube. I wasn’t able to feed myself,” Spencer said. “I had to relearn everything. It was literally like being born again.”

Spencer, now 27, spent the last year focused on his health.

“I have a reminder in my room of what happened, and I tell myself I’ll never, ever put myself or anybody else in a situation like that,” Spencer said. “Not just me physically, but what it did mentally to my family and my friends.”

With the help of his family at the fire department, Spencer has lost 70 pounds, and he’s not stopping there.

“They work out with me. They help me with meal planning,” Spencer said. “I’ve kind of really taken to a lifestyle I thought I’d never live.”

The fire service is still his passion, and while he’s not back to fighting fires just yet, he’s hopeful that will change soon.

“I’m still kind of playing a support role and trying to get everything figured out with my lungs and doctors,” Spencer said. “As much as I say I’m ready to go, go, go, go, I still have to have the sign-off from the big guy.”

Spencer is optimistic he’ll pass all the tests this fall so he can return to being an interior firefighter.

He was not vaccinated last spring when he got so sick, and he regrets that. Spencer is vaccinated now and hopes his story encourages others to do the same.