WORCESTER (CBS) – A Worcester man is finally home after spending 74 days in UMass Memorial Hospital battling covid-19. Rene Hernandez’s case, like so many others, is confounding. The 47-year-old with no pre-existing conditions believes he caught the virus while grocery shopping without a mask.

Fevers and chills soon gave way to shortness of breath and he was admitted to the hospital on April 7. “Before leaving for the hospital, I had reconciled with God,” Hernandez said.

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From there, his condition quickly deteriorated. “He had multi-system organ failure. They really didn’t think he was going to make it,” said UMass Dr. Meme Tran.

One doctor told Hernandez’s wife, Vilma, to hope for a miracle. “She said, believe in miracles and it’s up to a miracle because there isn’t anything more that we can do at this point,” Vilma said.

Hernandez spent more than two months in the ICU and, at some point, his condition took a turn for the better.

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Dr. Tran was present when Hernandez heard his own voice for the first time in a month and a half. “Immediately when he was able to speak, tears were just strolling down his face. He was so happy to hear his own voice,” she said.

Now, Hernandez can weakly walk around his own home and he displays a strength that defies what doctors expect to see after such lengthy hospital stays.

“Given what we’ve seen in the past, with people being on a vent for two months plus, they’re going to have poor prognosis. Their muscles are going to be weak. Their lungs are not going to remember how to breathe on their own,” Tran said.

Even the most seasoned doctors who treated him credit his recovery to personal fortitude and tremendous medical care.

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“I, at one point, felt like a newborn baby. They were treating me with such delicacy. And, to them, I owe it and I owe it first of all to God,” Hernandez said.

Louisa Moller