5 COVID-19 survivors who beat death share their New Year’s resolutions
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New Year’s resolutions have a different ring this year for those who fought and won against the coronavirus.
While this time of year tends to bring hopes of weight loss or financial success, a brush with death changes things. COVID-19 survivors lived through ventilators, medically induced comas and stretches of time where they didn’t think they’d ever see their loved ones again.
But to some, the experience has changed their path in life for the better.
We spoke to five New Yorkers who battled COVID-19 and found a powerful silver lining in their recovery. Here, they share their poignant New Year’s resolutions.
She’ll become a mother
March was a cruel month for musician and actress Kate Nauta, 38. Eager to start a family, Nauta and her husband, designer Robert McKinley, learned that the round of in vitro fertilization they had undergone wasn’t successful. They received the heart-wrenching news while on a ski trip in Italy, just as COVID-19 was engulfing the country. After returning to New York, they learned they had also contracted the disease.
The pair were knocked out for nearly five weeks, but dealing with the emotional toll took even longer. “I needed to give myself time to heal and grasp onto the promise that I would be a mother,” Nauta said.
In a surprise twist, the couple found that the stand-still nature of the pandemic allowed them “to stop and slow down and realize the important things as opposed to the business of life,” Nauta said. “I felt like my body was ready to do IVF again.”
Now, they’re expecting a baby girl on April 17.
“It’s such a gift,” she said. “You walk through tough things, you feel defeated, and everything now feels like a miracle.”
He’ll get in shape
On April 5, Irving Pantin began experiencing horrific chest pains. The 57-year-old was rushed to the Brooklyn Hospital Center and told he had suffered a heart attack — but the worst was yet to come. His heart attack was also a symptom of his eventual COVID-19 diagnosis.
“When I was admitted, there were covered-up dead bodies in the hallway,” Pantin, a photographer who now works for the city, told The Post. “I was put in the ICU and people to the left and right of me were on ventilators.”
As he was being treated in the hospital, he thought of his 14-year-old son, Anthony, and wife, Rachael — neither of whom could be there in person with him due the virus’ rapid spread.
Rachael told him to read Psalm 91. “It’s a protective prayer,” he said. He read it over and over.
In the six months it took him to recover and get back to work, he completely remade his routine, seeking a healthier lifestyle after his brush with death. He now goes bike-riding with his son, drinks water with lemon and ditches the fried food in favor of salads. And on Saturday mornings, he takes long walks through Brooklyn with his boss.
“I’ve been more active than before, because I want to be there for my son,” he said.
He’ll move to his dream city
When fashion stylist Giovanni Mena, 46, woke up in Long Island’s South Shore University Hospital, he thought it was March. It was actually June 10.
“I just didn’t understand — I kept asking the nurses to sit with me and explain,” the Nassau County resident told The Post. Back in March, he tested positive for COVID while in the hospital with a bad case of pancreatitis. He flatlined twice, and while doctors were able to revive him, he was put into a medically induced coma.
Mena lost nearly 75 pounds during his hospitalization. He then spent five weeks in a rehab facility to rebuild his strength. Since the summer, he’s worked to gain back his weight and strength. He also promised himself he would finally fulfill a lifelong dream in the new year: moving to Los Angeles.
“I have wanted to move to LA for a long time, but there was always something that held me back,” he said, adding that he has a one-way ticket to LA for Jan. 14 and is planning on buying his first car. “Now I know tomorrow isn’t promised.”
He’ll have empathy for his patients
Before his COVID diagnosis in April, Dr. Karan Omidvari, a critical care doctor at Hackensack University Medical Center, described himself as a cynical physician. Getting the disease himself changed that.
Omidvari, 59, was intubated three times and his oxygen dropped to dangerous levels. Doctors prepared his wife for the worst. The Manhattan resident spent a month in the hospital and received convalescent plasma, which he believes helped his recovery. As he healed, he was flooded with well wishes from former colleagues and medical students, telling him what an impact he made on their careers.
“It was very life-affirming,” Omidvari told The Post.
His fight with the virus also sharpened his physical and emotional skills as a physician. Now, he said he’s more gentle with needles, IVs and other invasive tubes. He can also relate better to the strange pains and symptoms his COVID-19 patients have.
“I have never been in a patient’s shoes,” he said. “This is my second chance.”
She’ll launch her business
For months after her COVID-19 diagnosis in March, Rose Blackmon wasn’t sure if she’d see her family again — let alone achieve her dream of running a successful business.
“It was horrible. I would go to bed each night and pray that I would see my son again,” said Blackmon, whose 11-year-old stayed with his father — and her ex — as she fought the illness at home. When her breathing became especially labored, she almost called her son to say, “I love you,” not knowing if she’d ever have another chance.
But Blackmon, 40, emerged from the illness a stronger, more confident person ready to seize life and invest in her small business, Uptown Atelier, which offers custom tailoring and sewing lessons. The concept was always a “half-launched rocket,” she said. Now, she’s putting money into her website and brand and spending more time getting the company up and running.
“Fighting for my life made me feel like I deserved to live,” she said. “I’ve had a chance to start over, and do it right.”
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