A father who spent several weeks battling COVID-19 after contracting it from his oldest son, who ignored his parents’ advice to stay home and met with friends, has been discharged from a Florida hospital.
Community members, medical staff and loved ones gathered outside of Westside Regional Center in Plantation, to celebrate John Place’s recovery after six weeks under medical supervision.
The entire family tested positive for COVID-19 in June after Place’s 21-year-old son fell ill and later learned that a friend he hung out with was infected.
Place, who suffers from diabetes, was hit with the most severe symptoms and was hospitalized soon after. He spent more than two weeks on a ventilator.
Their story made headlines after Place’s wife, Michelle Zymet, posted a Facebook Live video in July that pleaded with younger adults to take COVID-19 seriously.
In a new Facebook Live video shared by Zymet on Thursday, Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ blasts from a music speaker as a number of people eagerly wait outside the hospital entrance.
The group, all wearing face masks per a Broward County mandate, carry welcome home signs, Superman-themed face masks with Place’s initials and t-shirts that say ‘I’m Alive.’
In the video the 42-year-old father is wheeled out of the hospital and greeted with loud, emotional cheers from the waiting group.
Michelle and their children are seen rushing through the crowd and enveloping Place in a tight embrace.
Then, Place proves he’s on the road to a successful recovery by gingerly standing up from the wheelchair and pumping his hands into the air in celebration.
Place manages to take a few steps forward before getting back into the wheelchair as the overjoyed crowd claps.
At one point, Place appears overwhelmed by emotions and is gladly comforted by his family.
In an interview with NBC Miami shortly after, Place summed up his feeling with just two words: ‘I’m Alive!’
‘That’s what I am. I feel amazing. I can’t even tell you how I feel,’ Place said.
‘I’ve been in the hospital for over 40 days, I was on a ventilator for 20 days. This is the most amazing thing. I want to thank all the doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals here at Westside Regional Medical Center. They saved my life.’
He added that his nurses played a big role in his recovery by going above and beyond with their care.
‘You know, I was very lonely because there’s nobody. I just wanted to hold her hand, said Place, referring to a nurse.
‘And she held my hand the whole time…and that really means a lot. They saved my life. I love them,’ he added, breaking down into tears.
‘This is a true miracle,’ Zymet said. ‘100 percent I believe in the power of prayer.’
Zymet wrote in a Facebook post Thyrsday: ‘Wow JJ you really captured every moment perfectly and brought me to tears all over again!! We are so blessed and grateful for this day and to have Place home with us finally after 6 long weeks!! What an amazing feeling!’
Zymet added two hashtags that read ‘wear the damn mask’ and ‘covid sucks’.
Place revealed on Facebook that he was back at his Plantation house with an in-home nurse.
The nurse was going over ‘the 10 pills and insulin and whatever else I need to [take],’ he wrote.
Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 have continued to spike across The Sunshine State with particularly concerning statistic in the southern half.
In Broward County, which contains Plantation, nearly 60,000 cases and 782 deaths have been recorded as of Thursday.
There were 3,595 hospitalizations, with the infected population’s median age 39 and more white residents testing positive.
The ordeal began in June when the entire Place family fell ill with COVID-19 after Place’s son after hanging out with friends despite his parents’ advice to avoid gatherings.
‘He always assured me, “Don’t worry, mom. I’m doing everything right, relax, chill.” You know how these kids are, so I trusted in him,’ Zymet told 7 News Miami.
She said she begged him to think about his dad, who is at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness because he is overweight and diabetic.
But despite her pleas, he went out against her wishes one night in June, when he gathered with friends at a bar and removed his mask while eating and drinking.
Days later, he felt cold symptoms and a friend at the get-together told him she had tested positive for coronavirus. By then, it already had taken hold in the young man’s household.
‘You let your guard down just one time, it’s all it takes,’ Zymet added. ‘You come home, and you infect the entire house.’
The illness’s spread among members of the family highlights the outcome dreaded by authorities who feared the recent surge of cases hitting younger Floridians would spread to older, more vulnerable people.
‘They don’t necessarily listen. It could be peer pressure,’ Zymet said.
‘Maybe they think, “None of us are sick. We are fine.” They don’t understand many of us are asymptomatic and are positive carriers of the virus.’
The young man, who did not want to talk to the media, had told his father and stepmother that he initially thought he had a common cold and took over-the-counter medication.
When he heard about his friend testing positive for coronavirus, he still didn’t think he had it.
But members of the family started to fall ill one by one, starting with his 14-year-old brother, who is also overweight and was wheezing, coughing and lethargic.
His six-year-old sister had only a runny nose and stepmother was achy, with a fever and chills.
Zymet said she has been called an ‘awful mother,’ and an ‘evil witch’ for placing the blame on the stepson, but she said she thought it was important to share her family’s story amid a surge of infections first detected among young people.