Tito Velasquez, 36, of Valley Stream, had no underlying health conditions when he arrived at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital in critical condition back on April 28.
Doctors said his oxygen saturation, which is 99% in a normal patient, was at just 11%. He was immediately placed on a ventilator and later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Related: From the brink of the death, COVID patient leaves hospital with new outlook on life
Over the course of the next several weeks, Velasquez suffered two strokes and a collapsed lung and was placed on an ECMO machine, a lung-heart bypass device that pumps and oxygenates the blood to let the organs rest.
Still, he says he was confident he would make it home.
"Be with my wife and see my brothers," he said in Spanish, when asked the first thing he would do.
His journey also included stints at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Northern Westchester Hospital, where he began his rehabilitation.
He gradually weaned off the ventilator and began to breathe on his own, and he eventually built the strength to eat and walk independently.
Related: Man goes home after 122 days fighting virus
The final stage of his long road to recovery happened at Northwell's Stern Family Center of Rehabilitation, where he was released Monday.
All of the doctors who played a vital role in saving his life traveled to applaud his discharge.
"When we heard he could stand up and take a few steps, we all went flying up to the floor to see because we never thought it would happen," said Dr. Richard Stumacher, with Northern Westchester Hospital.
Related: 'Miracle Larry' heads home after fighting COVID since March
Velasquez, a deeply religious man who's motivation was getting back to his family, had to learn to walk again.
"We had dance parties in his room at 6 every night, made him feel proud of his efforts he was doing and progress," Dr. Stumacher said. "And he did it all, the work, and got there, never gave up, is a tremendous spirit."
Now, he has a message for others.
"I would tell them not to be fooled," he said. "There is nothing worst than being in here. You don't know what it will do to your body. This is a virus that does severe harm."
The team of healthcare professionals was grateful they got him this far.
"All this time and energy and emotions we pour in are totally worth it," said Dr. Zubair Hasan, with Long Island Jewish Medical Center. "To see something like this, something this good happen."
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