It was a moment that Joaquin Gomez and everyone at Maimonides Medical Center wasn't sure would happen, but after spending roughly 70 days in the hospital critically ill with the novel coronavirus, Gomez finally went home.
"They take care of me really good, and all of them are really nice here," he said. "I feel like they are my family."
Leading the team was someone who knew exactly what Gomez was going through. Dr. Paul Saunders also tested positive for COVID-19, and after recovering from a mild case, he got a surprise welcome back to work in April.
Gomez was his first patient that day.
"It's gratifying to see someone like him, who's obviously a really nice, hard working man who was critically, critically ill, near death, to come back," he said. "Make a dramatic recovery and be anxious to get back to his life."
Gomez works in a Manhattan restaurant and started feeling sick in late March.
"I was thinking, I'm not sure but I don't want to think it was COVID because I was a little scared," he said.
But it was, and he got sick -- fast.
"All the things they were doing for him, like using a ventilator, probing him, tuning him upside down, all the tings that normally work weren't working for him," Dr. Saunders said.
The only option left was ECMO, a treatment where blood is pumped through an external machine and essentially cleaned. Gomez was on it for 30 days.
"The problem was his lungs were so stiff and sick, it took a full month of lung rest on ECMO to recover," Dr. Saunders said.
Dr. Saunders said treating Gomez was a huge personal win.
"Everybody loves to see when a patient does well, and it makes it all worth it for all of us," he said.
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