Defiant cabbie who battled Covid for 222 days tells Brits 'we can send this virus packing in a taxi'

A CABBIE who is Britain’s longest-suffering Covid patient to finally go home has triumphantly declared the nation can “send this virus packing in a taxi”.

Ali Sakallioglu, 56, spent 222 days in hospital and care — and his family were told three times he was going to die.

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He had a heart attack, stroke, collapsed lungs, liver and kidney failure plus sepsis and other infections.

But grandad-of-nine Ali beat the bug and returned home on Armistice Day to rapturous applause as neighbours lined the streets to welcome him.

And in a passionate message to the nation, he said yesterday: “Britain, we can do this. We can beat Covid together.

“We can win this war like we won World War One and Two.”

He added: “If I can beat it, anyone can. I’m not some miracle. We just have to unite, do what the Government and scientists tell us to do and we’ll eventually send this virus packing in a taxi, never to return.”


The dad of five — at higher risk due to Type 1 diabetes — fell ill with symptoms including high temperature and loss of taste and smell at the end of March.

The virus left him bed-bound at home in Catford, South East London, and he was told to self-isolate after calling 111.

But his condition deteriorated, so on April 3 his worried daughter Seniz, 36, called 999 and he was taken to University Hospital Lewisham.

Ali was put on a ventilator and tested positive for Covid.

How Ali battled

March 24: Ali gets worsening symptoms.

April 3: Taken to hospital and put on a ventilator.

April 7: Ali suffers heart attack and has an op.

April 8: Ali is placed in an induced coma.

May 31: Doctors give him a tracheotomy.

July 1: Ali starts coming out of his coma.

July 23: He returns to hospital for physiotherapy.

October 10: Ali is discharged to a care home.

November 11: Ali finally returns home.

Four days later, he had a heart attack and was rushed to nearby King’s College Hospital for surgery.

He was placed in an induced coma and did not come out of it for three months.

Horrendous pictures of him in his hospital bed show him at death’s door, with badly swollen eyes and tubes coming out of his nose and mouth.

Ali, who also played poker professionally, said: “I should be dead. I had so many things wrong with me but the human body is an amazing thing. The NHS staff and my family have just been absolutely amazing.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”


Medics told admin worker and mum-of-three Seniz on three occasions they did not think he was going to survive.

The family were given the chance to visit to say their goodbyes — but refused to sign a do-not-resuscitate order.

Turkish-Cypriot Ali had a tracheotomy to help him breathe at the end of May and started coming out of the coma on July 1.

He said: “I couldn’t move at all when I came out of the coma. That was one of the scariest moments of my life — I thought I was paralysed.”


Ali began doing physio and was gradually able to walk and talk again — returning to Lewisham before moving to nearby Brymore House nursing home on October 10.

He lost 2.5st­ and he now has to take 26 tablets a day, mostly pain relief.

He is also using a walking stick and has two carers looking after him plus his children and girlfriend, receptionist Sheena O’Shea, 36.

Ali spent 186 days in hospital and 36 in the nursing home.

But he insisted: “I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of my cab.”

Derek Draper, 53, husband of telly’s Kate Garraway, has been in hospital with the virus for 227 days but Ali is the longest sufferer to have returned home.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, of the University of Exeter Medical School, commented: “He is lucky. We usually find that people who are ventilated, if they don’t start showing signs of progress in the first week or so, usually never do.”

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