California man with 1% chance of surviving COVID-19 leaves hospital in emotional celebration, after 64 days

He spent 64 days in the hospital, more than half of that time in a coma, and was given a 1% chance of surviving COVID-19. Last week, Gregg Garfield left his Burbank hospital to cheers, tears, and a tribute dedicated to a hero.

COVID-19 patient Gregg Garfield left his Burbank hospital after 64 days on Friday, May 8, 2020. (Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center)

The 54-year-old was admitted to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center on March 5. He was the hospital’s first coronavirus case and known as “patient zero."

Garfield fell ill after a ski trip to northern Italy in February. His symptoms progressively worsened, and he ended up in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

According to reports, he got pneumonia, he suffered kidney failure, his lungs collapsed four times, and he lost his ability to walk. Doctors did not expect him to survive, and his recovery is being described as nothing short of a miracle.

On Friday, donned with masks, hundreds of hospital staff, caregivers, and Garfield’s friends and family members crowded St. Joseph's lobby and entranceway to celebrate the patient who defied the odds and served as an inspiration to his loved ones and to all those who treated him.

His girlfriend and sister were by his side as the rousing cheers filled the hospital lobby. They pushed him in his wheelchair to allow Garfield to say good-bye and personally thank those who saved his life.

Then the cheers got even louder when he got up from his wheelchair to walk out of the hospital. 

"Amazing day!!” the hospital posted on its Facebook page along with the emotional video of his departure. "Gregg Garfield, the first COVID-19 positive patient to be admitted to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center on March 5 was able to walk out to go home today,” the post continued.

St. Joseph’s ICU nurse Lily Prasithpramote Santos expressed her joy for her patient and for her colleagues, commenting, "Incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of my ICU team.”

Garfield still has a long road ahead for a full recovery, but his story of survival has been one that has brought hope and energized those who treated him as they continued the battle against the coronavirus. "Even though everyone was scared and anxious, we did all we could to make sure we gave him the best chance of going home to his family. And today, it finally happened,” Prasithpramote Santos wrote. "Isn’t it incredible what we can all do?”

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.