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Love, prayers and expert care help “miracle man” beat COVID-19


George Zammarie (seated), with his wife, Jocelyn, and one of his brothers, Tony. George beat COVID-19 after nearly a month on a ventilator, and has regained much of his strength, with help from YNHH’s Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.

George A. Zammarie had been in a Bridgeport Hospital intensive care unit for over two weeks when doctors told his wife, Jocelyn, he was not doing well. “I told them, ‘please, just cure him,’” Jocelyn said. “’I have faith in God. I know he’s coming back to me.’”

George knew nothing about the fight to save his life. The last thing he remembered was waking up late the morning of April 2 after several days of feeling ill.

“My wife looked at me and said, ‘I have to call 911, now.’”

An ambulance transported George from his Stratford home to Bridgeport Hospital, where he was immediately admitted to the ICU. His oxygen levels were around 16 percent, and he couldn’t breathe. At age 65, with diabetes and other health conditions, George was at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19, which tests confirmed he had.

George spent 26 days on a ventilator, as doctors tried numerous treatments. They called Jocelyn before each one to ask her permission, and she readily gave it, telling them, “‘I’ve got nothing to lose.’”

Whether it was the treatments, George’s immune system or a combination, his condition improved.

“One day I woke up and started talking like nothing had happened,” George recalled. “Everyone was amazed.”

While his voice was working, the rest of his body wasn’t. After being removed from the ventilator, George spent another two-plus weeks at Bridgeport Hospital. He was discharged to Yale New Haven Hospital’s inpatient Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.

The Center, located at the Bridgeport Hospital Milford Campus, has treated a number of COVID-19 patients, said Nancy Hayden, the center’s lead inpatient therapist. Most require physical therapy to restore their strength and endurance and occupational therapy to help them resume activities of daily living, such as washing and dressing. George didn’t need pulmonary therapy at the center, but after one month on a ventilator, he could barely move. He couldn’t feed himself, and someone else had to dial his phone so he could talk to his family via FaceTime.

“This is very common among patients who have been on ventilators for so long,” Hayden said. “They’re immobilized for a long period, and given medications that can cause muscle loss and weakness.”

At first, George needed assistance to roll over in bed, and it took two people to help him stand, Hayden said.

“After nearly a month at our facility, he was able to walk out the door. He made remarkable progress.”

After leaving the Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, George received several weeks of home rehabilitation from the Stratford VNA. He is walking well, driving and has no lung problems, but required some outpatient rehabilitation at Bridgeport Hospital’s Ahlbin Rehabilitation Center for a hand problem related to his COVID treatment.

George credits his survival and recovery to the love and prayers of family and friends all over the world, and the healthcare providers at Bridgeport Hospital and the Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.

“They treated me like family,” he said. “They even gave me a nickname: ‘the miracle man.’”