NEW YORK — Staff at Queens Hospital call 68-year-old COVID-19 patient Rudy Corletto the “miracle man.” After a 42-day stay, 29 of them on a ventilator, the grandfather and retired car painter was finally discharged earlier this month.
Corletto's battle with COVID started with typical cold symptoms. In late-March, Corletto developed a mild fever and cough. His daughter Paola, a nurse, started to worry after she saw his blood-oxygen levels dropping and he started having bouts of confusion.
Corletto was rushed to the ER, where his condition quickly deteriorated. Doctors said the next step would be intubation.
“It was just a quick decision I had to make,” Paola Corletto told VICE News. “I literally called my mom. I asked her, is this what you want? Otherwise, he can probably die.”
Corletto spent the next month on the ventilator, making little progress until he underwent convalescent plasma therapy, an experimental treatment for COVID-19 patients that involves infusing critically ill patients with plasma from the blood of healthy, recovered individuals.
A little over a week after receiving the infusion, doctors were able to take Corletto off the ventilator that was keeping him alive. While research into the efficacy of plasma therapy for COVID patients is still ongoing, many on Corletto’s care team attributed his remarkable recovery to the experimental treatment.
“It was a complete extubation, which was miraculous as far as I'm concerned,” said Linda Bulone, the research nurse who’s coordinating COVID-19 clinical trials for the hospital. “And then he just kept getting better and better.”
VICE News caught up with Corletto on the day of his discharge to hear about his experience with COVID and meet the nurses who cared for him during his long stay.