'You will never be forgotten' - CT's first COVID-19 patient reconnects with medical team that saved his life

A year ago Monday, it was revealed that a Wilton man between 40 and 50 years old was the state's first COVID-19 patient - and now, he's reuniting with the medical team who saved his life over Zoom.

News 12 Staff

Mar 9, 2021, 1:27 PM

Updated 1,172 days ago

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A year ago Monday, it was revealed that a Wilton man between 40 and 50 years old was the state's first COVID-19 patient - and now, he's reuniting with the medical team who saved his life over Zoom.
It was a first-time meeting between Chris Tillett's twin sons, John and Luke, and the men and women who made sure Tillett will get to see them grow up.
"They're all walking around now. They're eating solid foods and everything. When I was under, they were 5 months old," Tillett says.
Tillett was in a medically induced coma for 10 days as he battled COVID-19 at Danbury Hospital a year ago. It's believed he got the virus when he traveled to San Francisco.
"You obviously were our first and everything was unknown, and you kind of set the ground for every patient that came after that so you will never be forgotten here," says Shelby Newkirk, the assistant nurse manager of critical care.
Recovery was a process. Tillett had to relearn to swallow and walk and had some cognitive problems at first.
"You guys cared for my emotional side too, like having music being played in my room and then having photos of my sons on the walls," he says.
Tillett went home March 22 with a goal of building up enough strength to hold his boys. That was soon replaced with new goals.
"Slowly but surely it came back. April 20 is when I went back to work," he says.
Tillett says his lingering health issues are relatively minor compared to other COVID-19 survivors. He's on blood pressure medicine now and every once in a while gets shooting pains in his legs. He also still has red spots on his feet from the virus.
Perhaps the biggest effect of his hospital stay was that it caused Tillett to re-evaluate.
"I started thinking about it there, like why do I need to be so far away from family," he says.
With his company working remotely, Tillett, his wife and the boys moved near his parents in Virginia.
"It brings us so much joy to see you doing so well and thriving in life and loving life and it couldn't make us any happier," says nurse Angela Gilchrist.
"I cannot wait to come up and actually walk the halls with you guys and give you all a hug and you're all going to get a big bear hug," Tillett says.
Two of the nurses who couldn't appear in the Zoom call were Facetimed to be a part of the special virtual reunion. Some of the  medical professionals who were part of Tillett’s team included Newkirk, nurse Marykate Tannone, who was the first nurse in ICU to take of Tillett, Gilchrist, nurse Michael Buan and nurse Janice Stauffer.
Tillett also showed his gratitude in June by holding a charity trivia night to raise money for Danbury Hospital.


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