LA County's 1st COVID hospital patient visits doctors who saved him on anniversary of his recovery

Gregg Garfield was at one point given a 1% chance of survival.

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
LA County's 1st COVID hospital patient visits doctors who saved him
The first person to be hospitalized with Covid-19 in L.A. County visited and thanked the health care workers who saved him on the three-year-anniversary of his recovery.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- One of the first Southern Californians to contract Covid-19 was released from the hospital after more than two months of receiving care that saved his life.

At one point, he was given a very small chance of survival.

The man nurses and doctors call "patient zero" got a chance to thank those who cared for him this week, on the three-year-anniversary of him walking out of the hospital in full recovery.

In 2020, Gregg Garfield of Studio City walked out of Providence St. Joseph Medical center after battling COVID-19 for 64 days. Thrity-one of them on a ventilator.

Now, exactly three years to the day, the staff welcomed back their first patient they treated with Coid-19 -- and the first to be hospitalized with the disease in Los Angeles County. Doctors gave him a 1% chance of surviving.

"He was very very sick. Anyone in his place would not have made it," said his neurologist, Dr. Ahed Hanna.

ICU nurse Olga Pronina was with Garfield during his struggle. She said his miraculous recovery is one of the reasons she continues in nursing.

"Seeing him do so great. So amazing," Pronina said.

Garfield recalled the ordeal. Although he made it out alive, he had lost several fingers and toes due to Covid-19.

"When I woke up the world changed. Everything had shut down. My fingers went black. My fingers died. A couple of my toes died," Garfield said.

This reunion is part of "Hospital Week" celebrations. Gregg thanked doctors and nurses as he passed out donuts during the early morning shift change.

And for the first time since his recovery, Garfield visited the hospital room where he spent more than half of his stay fighting for his life.

"We had to rely on the team here to know that he was going to be okay. Many people did not make it," said AJ Johnson, Garfield's life partner.

He was one of 13 people on a ski trip to Italy who all got infected upon returning home. For Garfield, it would be a long hard recovery.

"I had to learn how to eat, chew and swallow. Learn how to walk," he said.

Doctors exhausted every option to keep Garfield alive, but somehow he knew much of it would be up to him.

"It's all about mindset. All about mindset," he said.

Garfield's positive mindset is what helped him get back on skis shortly after his ordeal. He often goes to events to share his story hoping it will remind people that even at your worst, you can always make a comeback.

"It's good to be on this side of the fence. That's for sure," he said.