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U.S. veteran discharged after 85-day battle with Covid

Mercy patient is greeted by family, friends after his release

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Rockville Centre resident Michael Williams is described by his wife, Tracey, as an alpha male who has never been afraid of a battle. Over the course of 85 days at Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital, Williams fought Covid-19 physically and mentally — and beat it.

The impression he made on hospital staff members was clear: Dozens of doctors and nurses saw him off when he was discharged on April 26. They, along with family members and friends, lined Mercy’s lobby and cheered as Williams was wheeled out. The 59-year-old Army veteran was in high spirits, joking with staff all the way down the hallway and posing for pictures.

Williams spent 17 years in the Army, in a medical unit.

“First and foremost, I want to give thanks to God, of course,” he said. “I was scared, and it was tough, but the love you’ve shown me made me fight harder.”

The Williams family gathered near the entrance of the hospital and prayed together, grateful for Michael’s recovery.

Tracey and Michael, their children Ashley and Christopher, and grandchildren A.J. and Ari all tested positive for Covid-19 in late January. Their sons Justin, away at medical school, and eldest Jonathan who lives away from the home escaped a positive diagnosis.

Tracey described most of their cases as mild, but Michael’s case was alarming. He struggled to walk, talk and breathe, and Tracey rushed him to Mercy when it was clear that he wasn’t getting better. He was admitted on Feb. 1.

His family FaceTimed with him every night at 8 to help keep his spirits up.

“He was very withdrawn and very depressed,” Tracey said. “And even though he wasn’t able to talk and respond in the beginning, he was able to see that we were still there for him.”

“Michael has been a true inspiration to not only the staff, but other patients on our unit,” Physical Therapist Michel Dreyzin said. “We’re going to miss him, but he’s going to do great.”

Dreyzin sent Williams home with a bottle of bubbles to blow to continue rehabilitating his lungs.

The timing of his release was convenient, because he was able to be at home with his family to watch his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers make their selections in the NFL draft. Neighbor and family friend Damon Taylor was excited to join Williams to watch the draft. “He’s my favorite Steeler fan,” Taylor said, “and I’m glad to have him back.”

Tracey said she was hopeful that her husband’s recovery would continue to go smoothly at home, adding that her husband wants other Covid-19 patients to keep fighting. He cited the help of the critical care, acute care, respiratory and emergency departments, inpatient rehab and those family FaceTime calls as having kept him going even when he lacked energy.

“At the beginning, it was hard to fight to get better,” he said. “I almost gave up, but my wife and kids served as encouragement to get better. The staff at Mercy also pushed me every day, and reminded me I have so much to live for.”