BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting to spread in Italy, a group of 13 skiers left Los Angeles for their annual Europe trip, which would end with all of them testing positive for the virus, four of whom needed to be hospitalized.
Among them was 54-year-old Gregg Garfield, who spent 64 days at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and discharged this week. Not only was he the hospital's longest patient-stay, he was also its first coronavirus patient.
"He wasn't that bad when he came into the emergency room and within less than 48 hours, he wasn't breathing well, he was on maximum oxygen," said pulmonologist Dr. Daniel Dea.
Stephanie Garfield Bruno said her brother's kidneys failed and four different parts of his lung collapsed. Bruno said the situation still feels surreal, noting that her athletic brother was the picture of health before he became sick.
On Feb. 20, Garfield headed to northern Italy not knowing the pandemic there was about to explode.
"Three days into the trip, a few people started getting sick. By the end of the trip everybody was sick. None of us knew we had coronavirus," said Brett Lightner.
When they returned home, all thirteen travelers, including a father and two sons from Tarzana, and Lightner, all tested positive. Each with varying degrees of illness.
"A total of four guys were hospitalized, one being Gregg," Lightner said. "Three were on ventilators."
Garfield would end up on a ventilator for nearly a month. And during his 64-day hospital stay, doctors used every critical care strategy possible to keep him alive.
"There are a lot of lessons that we're learning and we're sharing information that we learned from him with our colleagues around the world," said Dr. Stephen Kishineff.
Reflecting on what her brother endured, Bruno offers this warning: "This isn't just some little flu or cold, this is the real thing."