Mississippi man who was on his deathbed with Covid-19 says his community and faith saved him

An ICU nurse took this photo of David Johnson for his family after doctors said Johnson's chance of surviving were approaching "statistically zero."

(CNN)A family trip to Nashville in March changed David Johnson and his family forever.

The Johnson family went during the early days of Covid-19, when the general public knew very little about the virus. The family returned with slight nausea, thinking it was food poisoning.
Johnson's wife and children developed flu-like symptoms, while his nausea got worse. He began having trouble breathing and could not stop coughing.
    "I remember one morning doing an interview at 11 a.m., by 11 p.m. that night I was on life support," said Johnson, who covers University of Mississippi and Southeastern Conference (SEC) Football for 247 Sports, a subsidiary of CBS Sports.
      A very weak David Johnson being wheeled out into a courtyard after day 33 in the hospital for a brief visit with his family.
      Johnson was ultimately in the hospital for 46 days, 21 of which were on life support. At one point, his brother had already started planning for his funeral and doctors told his wife, Ashley, there was nothing more they could do to save him.
        And yet, Johnson has since made a full recovery. The 6-foot-1 Mississippi native who once weighed 250 pounds lost 52 pounds during his time fighting Covid-19. He has gained 20 of those pounds back and also recovered his sense of taste and smell.
        Johnson attributes this recovery to the power of community, prayer and overall, his faith.
          "Doctors told me they could not give me a medical explanation for how I turned better," Johnson told CNN. "Nobody can give me that explanation. It is in my mind and in my heart that the power of prayer is what delivered me from my death bed. I believe God left air in my lungs and kept me here on earth to spread that message."

          'At least it's not Covid'

          The Johnsons went to Nashville for a sports conference, Johnson said.
          During their trip, the family went out to celebrate the birthday of Johnson's wife, Ashley. They starting feeling funny the days following the dinner.
          "We were all a little nauseous. At the time, I don't think people were putting stomach issues with Covid," Ashley told CNN. "We thought, 'We can't eat, but at least it's not Covid.' Our first thought was we had a touch of food poisoning."
          Other red flags popped up, Ashley said. Her husband was tired and their 22-year-old son, Eli, a college football player, lost his appetite. Their 6-year-old daughter, Tori, started throwing up.
          Johnson was in denial at the time, he told CNN.
          "I'm an avid news watcher and I was watching how it was spreading across the world and into the US. ... I subliminally told myself it was just a stomachache."
          But as his illness progressed, he became convinced he had it. He called his doctor and was told no tests were available so he had to wait four days for a test. Johnson wasn't able to wait, though, and he was tested for strep and flu.
          When he called his doctor again with reports of difficulty breathing and a consistent cough, he was told to go to the hospital immediately.
          "I actually collapsed at the emergency room entrance," Johnson said.
          He was told he'd need to be on a ventilator. He resisted because of the statistics he read about many people not making it after being put on a ventilator.
          Johnson texted his 20-year-old daughter, Sydney, while fighting with medical staff.
          She said the text read, "I think I'm dying."
          He finally accepted the ventilator. His family didn't know if he'd ever come back home.
          Sydney -- who did not go to Nashville with her family because she was on spring break -- says she drove home that night despite them having Covid-19. The Johnsons sat together outside in the cold.
          "It's so weird grieving in that way, 6 feet apart on concrete," she said.

          "My husband is a fighter"

          After the first eight days of being on a ventilator, Johnson said medical staff told his wife he had only a 5% chance of surviving.
          On day nine, they told her there was a 0% chance of survival. At this point during the pandemic, ventilators and personal protective equipment were in short supply in the US.
          "They asked my wife to sign a 'do not resuscitate' order," Johnson said.
          "I told them, 'My husband is a fighter, let him fight.' I begged them. I knew with three children, they needed their daddy and I needed a husband. I told the doctors I believe in miracles," Ashley told CNN.
          Doctors and Johnson's family argued about his condition and whether to keep him on life support. A decision was finally made to keep him on it.
          Still, Doctors prepared the family for his death.