DAN: I was in the bathroom at home when the walls started swimming. I grabbed for the sink just as my body sank to the floor. “Christine!” I yelled. In seconds, my wife was at my side. It was March 26. Six days earlier, we’d both tested positive for Covid-19. She’d gotten better. But I had a fever of 103.8. Sweating buckets. “I’m calling 911,” Christine said. “We’re getting you to St. Barnabas.” I’d worked there forever, moving up from patient transport to a cardiac exercise specialist. Christine’s a nurse. But we’d resisted going to the hospital. We knew how bad it was there.
RICK: I was doing rounds, checking patient charts. We’d had a couple new admissions. Radice, Dan, I read. In his early fifties, intubated, on a ventilator and an IV. Barely hanging on. I patted his leg and moved on. I was nearly through all the patients, my mind on a million things when it hit me. I knew that guy, only I’d always called him Danny. He’d saved my life. Now he was counting on me. I rushed back to his bed and bent down. “Hey, dude,” I said. “How are you doing?” He looked at me blankly. Oh, man. He really wasn’t himself.
DAN: I knew a lot of the docs at St. Barnabas, but with the gear they were wearing now, all I could see were this guy’s glasses peeking over his mask. With the vent tube down my throat, I couldn’t even ask his name. I hated being so helpless. Not like in the cardiac rehab unit, where I was the one helping people get their lives back.
RICK: Walking into rehab the summer of 2014, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Three weeks earlier, a heart attack had landed me in the hospital where I work. The day before my 48th birthday, my chest started hurting something awful. I thought it was heartburn. Finally my wife said, “Either you stop complaining or I’m taking you to the ER.” She’s a nurse. I knew better than to argue.
Now I scanned the rehab workout area. A dozen people on the machines. No one huffing and puffing too bad. I could power through this, no problem. A trainer strode toward me. He stuck out his hand. I shook it. Let’s do this.
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