They Are the Reason He is Alive

“The staff here ‘crushed’ it," says critical care doctor Alan Garber, MD. “The nurses, respiratory therapists, patient care assistants and others nailed it with this patient and all of our COVID-19 patients. Their work ethic is top shelf. He needed lots and lots of care and they worked tirelessly to save his life.”

The patient was Michael Famolaro of Norwich. He spent 40 days in the hospital; 30 of those days he doesn’t remember.

Michael Famolaro and critical care doctor Alan Garber

“I lost the whole month of May,” said Famolaro recently from his hospital bed. Famolaro contracted COVID-19 sometime in April of this year and was admitted to Bassett Medical Center April 27.

“I didn’t have any trouble breathing that I noticed, but my body just didn’t feel right,” he said. However, a test of Famolaro’s blood oxygen level revealed it was dangerously low. He spent the next month on a mechanical ventilator to support his breathing while he battled COVID-19.

“Mr. Famolaro was suffering from severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is an inflammation that causes fluid buildup in the lungs, and that’s why he needed to be on a respirator,” explains Dr. Garber. The evidence-based treatment for ARDs also includes proning, which involves turning the patient from his back to his stomach to improve oxygenation and clear mucus from the lungs. Garber says the staff that cared for Famolaro proned him daily throughout the month their patient was on a ventilator. 

“Over time, we were able to turn things around for him and save his life,” says Garber. “It was a difficult time for his family and frankly, for our staff. We are family and patient-centered, and we were acutely aware that due to the pandemic, our patient’s family couldn’t be at his bedside.”

Although Famolaro was heavily sedated to keep him comfortable and safe while on the ventilator, his family was connected with their loved one via a video Zoom connection. His children and family could see their father/brother and ask questions of his care team.

“Bassett was phenomenally amazing with my brother, and amazing with our family. The staff was caring and knowledgeable when we did the daily Zoom conferences. We are so grateful for the dedication and commitment to recovery they provided him,” says Famolaro’s brother, Heath Kuhn.

His daughter Jessica Brown remembers nurses calling every day between 10 a.m. and noon to provide an update and then again after the doctor had been by in the afternoon. “They treated my dad as one of their own and saved his life. They were there for him when we could not be at his bedside. We will forever be grateful for that.”

Famolaro turned 58 years old the day he was discharged from Bassett Medical Center. The team that lived his struggle for life with him over the past several weeks brought him a birthday cake and lined the hallway cheering his recovery as he departed their care, headed for a rehabilitation center and soon thereafter, home.

“They are the reason he is alive,” Garber said.    

Editor's note: Famolaro’s rehabilitation progressed well and his family had him home in time for Father’s Day.

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