Kenmore man has long road to recovery after spending 25 days on a ventilator, fighting COVID

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KENMORE, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s a miracle.

Michael O’Connor played with his two kids on Wednesday morning, thankful to be there. A month after leaving the hospital, the 43-year-old is 50 pounds underweight. He also still takes two naps a day, gets winded walking up the stairs, and he can’t pick up his 38-pound son.

“He felt like he was 138 pounds,” Michael said. “And before, I could hold both boys no problem.”

In April, after coming down with a 105-degree fever, Michael was sent to the COVID-only hospital, the St. Joseph’s Campus in Cheektowaga. Once he was there, he was told he needed to go on a ventilator.

“I was super scared,” he said. “As a matter of fact, on the way to the hospital, I said, ‘Everybody in this hospital is on a ventilator and only 20% survive,’ ya know? And the number of days I was on there, the numbers are even lower.”

He’d stay on that ventilator for 25 days.

To him, it felt like a long nap.

But while he was dreaming, Michael’s wife Kathryn was living in a nightmare.

“I was always just thinking the worst,” Kathryn said. “I have two kids under three… and I’m thinking crazy things, like who’s going to fix Thomas the Train when the batteries run out? Who’s going to peel the apple? Who’s going to teach them football? Who’s going to teach them all the manly things they need to know, growing up as men. That’s what was going through my head the whole time.”

Kathryn was not only scared, but she also came down with the coronavirus. She was forced to fight the illness at home alone with her two boys… but she wasn’t fully alone. Family and friends sent her food and gifts; her church prayed for Michael; and a family friends started a GoFundMe, which raised $10,000. Another friend donated plasma to Michael, who said he was the first patient at St. Joe’s to get it. And the nurses at St. Joe’s let Kathryn Facetime with her husband every day while he was sedated. She said the nurses there kept her spirits alive.

After nearly a month, Michael finally woke up.

“It’s a miracle,” Kathryn said. “I just think there’s a plan. There’s still a lot of story left in his life.”

“It’s starting to set in, like “Wow, I was really lucky, I was such a low percentage that I had to make it and here I am,’ ya know? And I have all these wonderful things in my life,” Michael said.

Michael is expected to make a full recovery. He’s a huge Bills fan, and just hopes he can be fully better by the start of the NFL season.

And Jim Kelly hopes so too. The Bills hall of famer sent Michael a video message wishing him the best, telling Michael he can’t wait for the day he can meet him and give him a big hug.

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