Still, he and his longtime fiancée never gave up hope.
Ron Trotta and Elly McGuire make a living teaching about the science of weather, but for a time, the couple couldn't predict their future, let alone the next day.
"I was intubated twice for a total of 28 days," Trotta said. "All I remember from that is a lot of bad dreams."
He was hospitalized the entire summer for what doctors initially thought was COVID-19.
"Someone who is in pulmonary failure needing to be intubated gets shipped off to the COVID ventilator ward," Dr. Paul Stelzer said.
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The cardiovascular surgeon didn't meet Trotta until late August, when McGuire had him transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital. Dr. Stelzer said COVID wasn't making Trotta sick, but instead it was a combination of a bacterial infection, a leaky heart valve, and brain bleeds that left him paralyzed on the left side.
"If I've got a solid chance of helping someone that I know will put the effort in, then I'll give them a chance," he said.
Dr. Stelzer successfully replaced Trotta's aortic valve, which was followed by weeks of rehab.
"Every day I'd go in and say, 'I miss you, your puppies miss you, and your piano misses you,'" McGuire said.
He finally headed home, and Sunday, on Valentine's Day, the couple celebrated the 30th anniversary of their engagement.
"I got a haircut," Trotta said, laughing.
It was something so mundane and yet a profound sign that Trotta is getting back into the swing of things.
"I knew there was no way I was letting go of this guy," McGuire said. "He is a miracle man."
The pair is holding fast -- and holding onto each other.
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