Author Michael Rosen has said doctors warned him he “might not wake up” while he was being treated for Covid-19.
The former children’s Laureate, 74, spent 47 days on a ventilator after being admitted to hospital in March.
He said doctors “handed me a piece of paper and said you’ve got a 50/50 chance”, to which he asked “are you telling me I might not wake up?”.
He said he was told “‘Yes’, then I signed something” before being placed in a medically induced coma.
The We’re Going On A Bear Hunt writer recalled: “I think I was a bit light-headed but I remember thinking ‘oh well a 50/50 chance’. I was quite sort of flippant about it really to myself.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said at first he thought he had the flu or a mild form of the disease.
He told presenter Mishal Husain that “things started moving very, very quickly” after his neighbour, a GP, tested the levels of oxygen in his blood and told him “you’ve got to go to A&E now”.
He later found out his respiratory system, liver and kidneys were failing, and looking back said he was “probably two or three hours off departing this planet.”
Rosen has been left with a temporary hole in his neck after doctors performed a tracheostomy to allow the ventilator to supply oxygen to his body via a tube.
Speaking from his home in north London, he described himself as “feeble” and “lopsided” after losing some vision and hearing on his left side.
He likened his legs to “cardboard tubes full of porridge” and currently uses a hospital-issued walking aid which he has named “Sticky McStickstick”.
The writer is now recovering at home with his wife, radio producer Emma-Louise Williams.
She used Twitter to update fans about her husband’s illness, describing his time on a ventilator as a “long and difficult” seven weeks.
Recalling the night she was first told her husband may have to be put on a ventilator, she said: “My daughter and I came home and we didn’t really sleep. We did think that Michael might go that night”.
She said Rosen would spend another eight days breathing with the aid of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask but was readmitted to intensive care after becoming “increasingly tired”.
She told how she tried to block out the emotional strain by “focusing on the facts” and trying to “get on with our day to day life here with the children”.
She recalled: “I didn’t know if Michael would be able to wake up and come off the ventilator and that even if he did, whether it would be Michael coming back.”
The author, who was children’s Laureate from 2007 to 2009, is best known for works including Little Rabbit Foo Foo and Tiny Little Fly.
His 2008 poem These Are The Hands was written to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS. It is now part of a book that’s being used to raise money for the health service.