CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- He's being called the "miracle patient."
After spending nearly 50 days in the hospital with COVID-19 and complications from the virus, a New Jersey police sergeant is on the road to recovery.
This week, 47-year-old Frank Talarico walked the halls of Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden looking much different than he did the last time hospital staff saw him.
"You look fantastic," one hospital worker said while hugging him.
Doctors and nurses recall a time when they weren't sure Talarico would survive. It all began on Christmas Eve of 2021.
"I wasn't feeling that great," said the Pennsauken, New Jersey resident whose wife is a physician's assistant.
It was Talarico's wife who rushed him to the hospital.
"I was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia at that time," he said.
Talarico was not vaccinated for COVID-19. He cited concerns over the speed at which the vaccine was produced and its safety.
He was put on a ventilator and stayed in the hospital for 26 days. It was during a time when COVID prevented his family from visiting; however, Talarico, who is a sergeant with the Merchantville Police Department, was never truly alone.
"When I was discharged, there were 20, 30 guys on my front lawn waiting for me," he said.
What he didn't know was that beating COVID-19 and being discharged from the hospital was just the beginning. Only days after being discharged, Talarico started to feel ill again.
"I was having a very, very difficult time trying to breathe," he said.
Once again, his wife's instincts kicked in.
"She knew right away," he said. "She said 'You have a blood clot. We have to go back to the hospital.'"
"Mr. Talarico was in obstructive cardiogenic shock," said Dr. Joseph Broudy, an Interventional Radiologist at the hospital. "We knew that it was an MPE, massive pulmonary embolism."
When Broudy helped removed the blood clot, doctors discovered it was cumulatively about a foot long. It had been blocking circulation to Talarico's right lung.
"It's a complication of COVID," said D. John Schwika, the hospital's chief of nephrology.
Schwika put Talarico on dialysis during his second visit due to worries over kidney failure as Talarico was on life support.
"His blood pressure dropped very significantly," said Dr. Hitoshi Hirose, director of Cardiac Critical Care.
Talarico's chances of survival were slim.
Now, looking back, he thinks getting the vaccine would have been a better choice than the COVID-related health complications he went through.
"(My wife) Let me know how close I was to not walking out of here," he said.
His survival, they say, is a miracle, but Talarico thinks the real miracles are the people working in the hospital.
"They were calling me their miracle patient," he said. "But I said they're all my miracle workers because if I wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here."
Talarico has now changed his mind about being vaccinated. He says he'll get the COVID vaccine as soon as he gets the "all clear" from his doctor.
NJ police sergeant, known as COVID 'miracle patient,' survives foot-long blood clot
"They were calling me their miracle patient," Frank Talarico said. "But I said they're all my miracle workers."
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