A respectable manager turned into a masked raider after a month in a coma turned him into a "different person".
Kyle Burrell burst into a Domino's pizza shop and demanded money while armed with a realistic looking BB gun and wearing a scarf over his face.
Terrified staff handed over the contents of the till, which was between £200-£300 and have been left traumatised and shaken by the shocking ordeal in March.
Newcastle Crown Court heard one worker at the takeaway, in Newbottle Street, Houghton, who was due to get married within weeks, said she was left "trapped in the moment" that the gunman entered the shop and suffers flashbacks, panic attacks and chest pains.
She said what should have been the "happiest time of her life" leading up to the wedding has been left in ruins.
Prosecutor David Crooks told the court that the BB gun had the appearance of a real Beretta and staff would have been easily convinced that a "real dangerous weapon" was being brandished at them.
Burrell, of High Street East, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing an imitation firearm at the time of committing an offence.
Lee Fish, defending, told the court the 29-year-old raider had lived a "thoroughly decent life" and had managed public houses and sales teams until he contracted pneumonia around 18 months ago, which almost cost him his life.
Mr Fish said: "He was in a coma for a month.
"He describes the person who left the hospital as being a very different person to the person who went into the hospital.
"He describes the experience of leaving the hospital as a surreal one, he just was not the person he had been.
"Regrettably for him, his life just unravelled."
The court heard Burrell had lost his job during his illness and began taking drugs after he left hospital, which developed into a heroin habit and led to debts.
Mr Fish added: "He owed people money in relation to drugs. He was told that he had to get the money one way or another.
"Stupidly, this is what he decided to do."
Mr Fish said Burrell can barely remember the raid as he was on drugs at the time and is genuinely sorry for the fear he caused.
The court heard Burrell has two recent previous convictions on his record, committed after his illness, and was on a community order at the time of the robbery.
Judge Stephen Earl sentenced him to five years and four months behind bars and said robbery is such a serious offence that "such matters simply must be deterred".
But the judge said such serious offending was a "bolt out of the blue" for a man with Burrell's background and said his illness and coma could be taken into account.
Judge Earl said a coma could "perhaps" make changes to a "people and their characteristics".
The judge told Burrell he accepted his remorse was genuine and added: "This is highly out of character."
Back in 2015, the Echo reported on how Burrell had defied the odds to walk a relative down the aisle at her wedding - less than a month after he was in a hospital bed fighting for his life.