Gregg Garfield was in a medically induced coma for 31 days over the course of his two-month hospital stay where he was treated for COVID-19. Doctors told him he had a 1% chance of survival, but last Friday, the 54-year-old proved them wrong and was released from the hospital.
Garfield, along with the thirteen friends he’d traveled with, contracted the virus after a ski trip to northern Italy in February. Although the entire group tested positive for the coronavirus, Gregg was hit the hardest.
He was hospitalized at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California on March 5 after he’d returned to the states. Garfield said he was “not able to breathe [and] gasping for air…”
“The disease kicked off, and my immune system just ate me alive,” he told KCAL-TV in Los Angeles.
Dire complications quickly arose for Garfield due to the virus. He suffered pneumonia and kidney failure, and his lungs collapsed four times.
Garfield, an avid skier and all-around fit guy, lost the ability to walk as his illness progressed.
Given a 1% chance of survival, his friends said if there was anyone who could beat the odds, it was Gregg. The dedicated athlete had cheated death before: Garfield was featured on the news in 2006 after he survived an avalanche while skiing.
When he began to get better, Garfield’s doctors and physical therapists helped the patient regain his mobility so that he could return home with a walker.
Healthcare workers at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center were so bolstered by Garfield’s recovery, dozens gathered to see him off on his release day.
The crowd cheered as Garfield, still weak from the toll COVID-19 took on his body, was helped out of his wheelchair so he could lean on his sister and his girlfriend as he walked out on his own two feet.
One St. Joseph’s employee told TODAY, “He’s our 64-day miracle. He’s our ‘patient zero’ who’s leaving the hospital walking after going through the unimaginable and back again.”
Garfield says he couldn’t have pulled through without support from friends, and from his sister and girlfriend who were his side every step of the way. Even when the women were no longer allowed in his room due to safety concerns, nurses helped them Facetime Garfield daily.
“I had so much support that I just was thankful for being alive,” Garfield said.
Garfield thanks the hospital staff that saved his life, and they are grateful in return, for the hope his story has inspired at the hospital.
“You’ve given us so much hope for so many other people that got sick who aren’t where you are now, and we’re not giving up on them because of you,” a staff member told him.