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Edward Fortuna embraces his mother upon release from Deptford Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing on Sept 23, 2020 after he spent three months there recovering from coronavirus. Photo: Univision. 
Edward Fortuna embraces his mother upon release from Deptford Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing on Sept 23, 2020 after he spent three months there recovering from coronavirus. Photo: Univision. 

A Camden comeback from coronavirus for the ages

Edward Fortuna went into the hospital with COVID-19 on March 17 and was released from care at the Deptford Center on Sept. 23.

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Edward Fortuna’s battle with COVID-19 is not over, but where he is now is miles ahead of where he was, and that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Fortuna was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on March 17, just as the virus started to mark its territory across the U.S.

At 53, he was not thought to be one of the elder patients at risk of serious complications early on, but still took the necessary precautions known at the time to avoid contracting it.

“I was scared of the virus,” said Fortuna.

The day heavy symptoms came, Fortuna reported a high fever, headache, pain down to his bones and trouble breathing. He was immediately transported by ambulance from his home in Camden to Cooper University Hospital.

Fortuna was admitted to urgent care for pneumonia that had developed as a result of COVID-19.  

It was the last time in six months that Fortuna would see the outside of a hospital or care center, and his condition would deteriorate over the next two months of intensive care.

A month and a day after admission, he was put on a ventilator after further lack of oxygen resulted in delirium and potential brain damage.

At the end of May, further complications threatened Fortuna’s gallbladder and required the insertion of a trach (tube) into his neck in another effort to improve airflow to his brain.

For two months after its placement, Fortuna was completely dependent on his ventilator, and members of his family told Univision that there were four instances where doctors thought he would die. It was their decision whether or not to disconnect the device.

They never did, and on June 30, 2020, Fortuna was transferred from Cooper to Deptford Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Deptford Township, New Jersey.

In addition to being immobile, he also arrived at Deptford with multiple wounds and needed a feeding tube to get nutrition.

Despite the desperate state, Fortuna began a slow, three-month recovery.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the rehab program put together by doctors at the Deptford Center, and his undying will to get better through all the complications.

“I never got their names, but those doctors were a miracle,” said Fortuna. “They gave me a second life.”

His family also kept tabs from a distance on how he was doing every step of the way.

In recovery, Fortuna’s trach slowly healed, he eventually came off of oxygen, he no longer needed a feeding tube, and started to redevelop independence when performing his activities of daily living (ADLS).

It all culminated on Sept. 23, 2020, when Fortuna, surrounded by staff at the Deptford Center, emerged from its doors supported by a walker and met his family that was waiting for him outside.

It was an emotional scene that hit a peak as Fortuna’s mother and siblings embraced him for the first time in five months, and after not knowing whether they would ever do it again.

At the time of release, his trach was completely healed, and he was between using a walker and cane to aid mobility. His diet had also returned to normal.

Fortuna’s road to recovery may not be over, but his journey thus far is one all can latch onto in these dark times for hope.

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