Rehab team helps Philly Pretzel Factory CEO walk again after COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's safe to say that each and every health care worker who has been treating COVID-19 patients is a hometown hero.

But for the man who provides Philadelphia with its pretzels, his heroes are the folks at Jefferson Health's Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.

The little things many of us take for granted, the ability to walk, talk, hug your family, are miracles for Dan Dizio.

"When I came in, I couldn't even walk five feet," said Dizio, the CEO of Philly Pretzel Factory who contracted COVID-19 last March.

What started as mild symptoms, within a few days, nearly left him paralyzed.

"I literally left my car in the middle of the street and ran into Jefferson holding my throat thinking I was choking. Really, what it was, my lungs wouldn't let me breathe," he said.

That's the last thing he remembers. He was in a coma for weeks before being transferred to Jefferson Health's Magee Rehabilitation Hospital where he spent the next month.

"Forty-eight years old, worked out every day, I didn't think it would affect me. I mean, I could get it, but never thought I would get hit the way I got hit," he said.

"The virus is non-discriminatory regardless of race, age, sex," said Paula Bonsall, an occupational therapist who treated Dizio at Magee Rehabilitation.

"He was emotional when he was here. He was isolated. It was in the height of the pandemic," said Aimee Aranguren, a speech-language pathologist who treated Dizio.

Eight months later, Dizio is back to work, back with his family, and he's even back to running now too. But he says he hasn't forgotten the day he got to the rehab center or the team that saved his life.

"Can I hug you?" Dizio asked his rehab team after seeing them for the first time in months. He came back to the hospital with gifts of heart-shaped bouquets for the whole staff.

"To come in here, it gives me goosebumps to even come through the doors because I never thought life would be back to normal for me," he said. "From the bottom of my heart thank you, and I don't think you get the recognition you deserve."

He says they are the heroes who never gave up on him.

"You know, I owe them so much and this is just a little thank you to say job well done and they really are hometown heroes," said Dizio.
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