One year later, first St. Joe’s COVID-19 patient has new life perspective

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — A Lancaster man found himself in the fight of his life right at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

He just so happened to be the very first patient at St. Joe’s hospital before it was turned into a COVID hospital.

He became a beacon of hope for nurses and doctors… and now George Stokes has a new mission in life.

Taking a look at George Stokes today, you would have no idea of the treacherous path he’s walked.

He revisited St. Joe’s hospital, nearly a year to the day, where he laid in a hospital bed, fighting for his life.

“Man! Them guys right there… they phenomenal! I love them… I love them,” explained George.

We asked George if they feel like family and he said, “we are family… yeah… yeah!”

George’s scary story began last March.

He was sitting in his recliner at home with a fever and couldn’t take it anymore.

He drove to St. Joe’s, where he was admitted.

He was the hospital’s first patient with coronavirus.

“All I remember is them coming back telling me that they needed to do some procedure on me and I said no you got to call my sister,” said George.

His sister, who happens to be a nurse, convinced George to trust the doctors.

George was placed on a ventilator, where he remained for 32 days.

He could write a book about his experience during that time.

It’s what he calls a spiritual awakening.

“If I tell you about the entertainment that was going on while I was in the coma you’d really be like wow, ya know?! I’m so serious, me and God we had a talk,” he said.

George went on to say, “they facetimed my sister and she was talking to me while I was in the coma. So she seen my facial expressions while she was saying certain things. And she said George I said something about my little nephew and she said the biggest smile was on my face! And I was like aw, ok!”

George’s personality captivated all of the healthcare workers at St. Joe’s, including one of the head nurses.

“I stopped everyday in George’s room on my rounds and I’d say George you have to get better,” said John LaForge, a nurse manager.

And a month later… he did.

“He had a trach at the time, we capped the trach and the nurse at his bedside said, “try to talk” and he said “I’m George and I’m back,” explained LaForge.

LaForge went on to say, “My team needed that. The team that was in this building needed that. It kind of ran through the building like wildfire… like that guy woke up! They extubated him… that guy’s ok!”

News 4 was there when George was released from the hospital last April, 70 pounds lighter and with a new appreciation for life.

“What’s crazy is like… why me? See I lost so many people — family to covid. And so many more Americans have died.. people across the world have died from COVID… why me? You know what I’m saying, so you know I’m trying to move on faith. I’m here for a reason,” said George.

As a mental health and substance abuse counselor, George has always been a helper.

Now, he’s on a new mission… one with a deeper meaning and zest for life.

George still has a long road to recovery.

He’s dealing with memory loss, speech problems, mobility issues and the right side of his body is numb, but he’s determined to return to normal.

You can help donate to George’s medical expenses and his effort to raise awareness about the virus through his Go Fund Me page.

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