Former COVID patient to run 20 miles between hospitals that treated him in New Jersey

MANALAPAN, New Jersey (WABC) -- Paulo Santos of Manalapan had just come off of a ventilator on his 39th birthday last April 7 and was too weak to talk, but this weekend, he plans to run 20 miles.

"The timeframe I was on a ventilator, the world had literally changed in that three-week span," Santos said.

It had turned into a world of lockdowns and a raging pandemic.

Santos was an early COVID patient. He was admitted to CentraState Medical Center on March 17 and transferred a week later to Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

"We were dealing with pneumonia, respiratory failure, and severe COVID so he was in a bad way," Dr. Eric Costanzo said.

Costanzo and his team began proning Santos and started him on Remdesivir and amazingly, just two days after coming off the ventilator, he headed home.

"I remember the first days at home I was still in a walker, I couldn't stand up," he said. "Then the next few weeks, I made it to the driveway, then I started running again."

That running was healing for his body and soul. Even though a heart attack slowed him down in September, he has kept running.

"Every step I was taking, it was that nurse praying for me, this nurse who cried, or this doctor or this pharmacist who gave me Remdeservir," Santos said. "All these little pieces were in my mind every time I was running and I said I had to do something."

This Saturday, three days after he turns 40, he'll run the 20 miles between the two hospitals where he was treated for COVID and he's raising money in the process.

"To see someone say, 'Gosh I almost died, I was critically ill and now I want to recreate my steps,'" Dr. Costanzo said. "That's especially touching. I'm sure there won't be a dry eye on our end when he arrives."

"I didn't want to thank them for letting me survive I wanted to thank them for giving me the chance to thrive in this new world," Santos said.

It's an expression of gratitude that goes the distance.

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