'It allowed me to focus on what's important.' CT's first COVID-19 patient reflects 2 years later

The pandemic officially came to Connecticut March 8, 2020, with the announcement of the state's first reported case. At the time, Chris Tillett, of Wilton, was fighting for his life.

News 12 Staff

Mar 8, 2022, 10:42 PM

Updated 809 days ago

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The pandemic officially came to Connecticut March 8, 2020, with the announcement of the state's first reported case. At the time, Chris Tillett, of Wilton, was fighting for his life.
"By the time you all heard, I was on a ventilator, and I was dreaming," Tillett told News 12.
Tillett spent 10 days in a medically induced coma at Danbury Hospital. He was 45 at the time, with a wife and 4-month-old twin boys. Doctors and nurses used experimental treatments to get him back home to his family.
"When I think back to it, I don't think about all the different things I had to go through, I think back to the people. I think back to my nurse Shelby and my doctors, Dr. Nee and Dr. Saad--the people who saved my life. There were many nurses. They didn't have a clue if they would be impacted, and they just stepped up to the plate and took care of me," Tillett said. "My memories are actually not a negative. They're more positive."
News 12 was part of a special reunion one year ago between Tillett and his heroes at the hospital. At the time, Tillett continued to deal with lingering health problems from the virus. Today, he said he still does, but the severity has lessened.
"There is a cardiovascular endurance that I'm missing. Even just carrying one of my sons for an extended period of time--before I could've done that all that day. Now I have to kind of stop and take a break," Tillett said. "Fortunately, me and my dog are walking a lot more. I no longer get pains in my legs, which is what I was getting even last year, and they would shoot up my legs and almost like lock up like rocks. That's finally gone away."
But one thing that Tillett developed due to COVID hasn't: his optimism and appreciation for life.
"What it's kind of done for us, is given us a North Star. It allowed me to really focus on what's important, what really matters, and to let go," Tillett explained. When you're lying there in a hospital bed thinking that this could be it, have the decisions you made been worth it?"
That outlook led Tillett, his wife, Elizabeth, and their boys, John and Luke, to move to Virginia to be close to family. Tillett also changed jobs to a role where he'd be able to spend more time with his loved ones.
Tillett told News 12 he's vaccinated and boosted and recently caught the Omicron variant but fortunately only had a head cold.
Since Tillet's positive test was announced two years ago, almost 729,000 cases have been reported by the state, along with more than 10,000 deaths.


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