by Dina Kupfer

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After 64 days in the hospital battling COVID-19, 61-year old Tom Norberg is counting his blessings.

“I’m one of the lucky ones, I survived,” he said.

Tom got sick in March with what doctors initially diagnosed as pneumonia, but Tom soon realized his symptoms were getting worse.

“I was having trouble breathing and we called 911, and the last thing I remember was the firemen in the house saying, ‘Can you walk to the stretcher?’ And it’s pretty much a blur after that,” Tom said.

That was on March 11. He doesn’t know where he contracted the virus, but he would spend the next several weeks on a ventilator in the ICU at Mercy San Juan Hospital.

“Tom was very, very sick, so he required a lot of attention,” ICU Nurse Zeena said.

Zeena was one of the nurses who treated Tom. Since his family couldn’t be with him, Zeena would update them on his status every morning. One phone call with Tom’s sister stuck with her.

“She said ‘thank you for risking your life to save my brother’s,’ and I just never forgot that,” Zeena said.

Tom’s sister Lorraine Akins said those phone calls truly helped.

“You don’t know how much hope you gave us,” Lorraine told Zeena on a Zoom call Friday.

A team of medical professionals kept that hope alive for Tom and his family. Once more medically stable, Tom was transferred to Mercy General Acute Rehab to regain his strength.

“Our role was getting him to the point that he could tolerate getting out of bed, getting ready for the day, and progressing toward walking,” Acute Rehab Therapist Alyssa said.

After two and a half weeks of three-hour a day therapy, Tom was back on his feet, embracing his fiancée for the first time in two months. And while he doesn’t remember much about his time in the hospital, he will never forget his medical team turned family.

“I can’t thank my family and all the caregivers and everybody in the medical profession for putting their lives on the line,” Tom said.

Tom still has a way to go in his recovery before he gains full strength, but he says he can’t wait to get back to work, mow the lawn and watch NASCAR.

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