A man known as "Miracle Larry" finally walked out of his Manhattan hospital on Wednesday, 128 days after he first was admitted with COVID-19.
And for the first time since mid-March, he gets to do something he hasn't done in far too long: hug his loved ones.
Larry Kelly was hospitalized March 17 with the coronavirus, at a time when New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic. He was put on a ventilator for 51 days, and he endured seizures and infections. Some weren't sure of his odds to make it out alive.
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"They threw everything at me, I got addicted to fentanyl, they had to wean me off. I'm a recovering drug addict, I don't even remember it," Kelly said.
His brother gave him the nickname "Miracle Larry" — a moniker that has come to define his fight.
"I was in a very dark place, but something pulled me out. And if that's a miracle, that's a miracle," said Kelly.
At one point, doctors considered Kelly the sickest patient in the hospital. But his wife and children never lost hope.
"I said please fight, please don't ever stop fighting. He said 'I give you my word, I'll never stop fighting.' And I believed it," said Dawn Kelly, his wife. As she waited for her husband to walk out of the hospital Wednesday, she held up the sign that had written on it the last thing Larry texted her before being hospitalized: I'll never stop fighting.
"My wife saved my life, she wouldn't let them pull the plug," Kelly said through tears.
A turning point came on Easter Sunday, when he opened his eyes.
"Five-hundred seventy-nine people died on Easter Sunday, and I didn't. I'm very blessed," Kelly said.
The former educator had people rooting for him all over the world, including those at his favorite neighborhood spot: Dive Bar, on the Upper West Side. In the midst of Kelly's battle, the owner of the bar put up a hand-drawn sign in the window showing their support that read "Let's Go Miracle Larry."
Owner Lee Seinfeld, who has known Kelly for years, said he was determined not to take that sign down until Kelly was able to come back and have a beer.
"That sign on the window gave me more hope than anything," Kelly said. He was able to stop by his old haunt Wednesday, where Seinfeld said that Kelly gets "whatever he wants" when he returns.
Kelly is still working to get back to 100 percent, but the man with a second chance is urging others not to take their health for granted, joking with people waiting for him outside the hospital that they were "a little close to each other, by the way."
That sense of humor never faded in Kelly, whose one-liners kept everyone in the hospital and beyond rooting for him, even as he poked fun of the food he was served.
"Have you ever had nursing home food? What they call chicken parm is chicken with tomato sauce thrown on it," Kelly said.