Jay Bialkowski, a 54-year-old Glastonbury man and retired police officer, said he remembers yelling to his family on March 25 to call 911 because he couldn't breathe. Then paramedics showed up and took him to the emergency room at Hartford Hospital.
He does not remember much about what happened in the next few weeks as he was hospitalized where he was breathing with a ventilator after contracting COVID-19.
On Friday morning, he shared his story as he gets ready to go home after a remarkable recovery.
"He was as sick as sick can get," Dr. Megan Panico, who works in pulmonary medicine at Hartford Hospital and serves as medical director at Gaylord Hospital, said.
Bialkowski not only needed to be on a ventilator to breathe, but on March 30 he was medically paralyzed to maintain his oxygen level.
Medical staff didn't know whether he would survive.
On April 10, he was extubated on a day that brought tears to the eyes of his caretakers.
"We were very scared that day. He wasn't moving at all. We did not know if he was going to be able to move. He'd been paralyzed for a long time," Panico said.
After a few days, Bialkowski started to wake up and move and it was time to think about his next steps.
Panico was transitioning from Hartford Hospital for a couple of weeks to Gaylord Hospital to help with COVID cases and Jay was moved to Gaylord Hospital.
It was a windy, cold day and it was raining.
"I remember how amazing the wet rain felt on my face," Bialkowski said.
As he was transported to the ambulance, dozens of people cheered for him.
All he wanted was to get better so he could go home to his wife and daughter. He was willing to work hard to get better.
In a matter of weeks, Bialkowski went from barely being able to move a muscle to walking on his own. His next milestone will be going home, which is expected soon.
"The transformation that I have been able to see in two weeks has been absolutely amazing," Panico said.
Bialkowski, who has been working in security at Hartford Hospital after retiring as a police officer, said he has a long way to go still, but he is doing much better than he was.
Hartford HealthCare officials said 450 people who contracted coronavirus have been discharged.