Jose Orellana is happily back to stacking the dairy cases at the Bellingham Market Basket.
The 44-year-old, originally from Guatemala, doesn’t remember much about the severe COVID-19 infection that put him in Tufts Medical Center in May of 2020.
“The doctor said that it’s like I died for 10 or 15 minutes,” recalls Jose. “I only remember being hit hard in the chest and they were saying ‘Jose, Jose, you’re strong. You got to get out of this.’”
Jose was tested for COVID-19 after a few members of the community came down with the virus. At first, he felt fine, but then he had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital. Soon he was in a coma and on a ventilator. Jose spent 112 days in the intensive care unit, one of the longest stretches in an ICU in Massachusetts during the pandemic.
“I didn’t see my family for five months,” Jose notes. “I cried when I saw my brother. He cried, too.”
This wasn’t the first time Jose faced a major health scare. He had a kidney transplant at Tufts MC four years ago.
“They saved my life twice,” he says. “I had a lot of angels at Tufts MC.”
Jose has been walking every day to get his strength back. He is grateful to the team of caregivers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic.
“Thank God, and thank you for working when I was really, really sick. God bless you all.”