Joshua Wortman has become the first Peconic Bay Medical Center patient to come off a ventilator and make a full recovery.
The 45-year-old Long Island City resident who made an impromptu decision to, with his wife, Rachel, 6-year-old son A.J., and dog Coco, head to his in-laws’ house in Westhampton, didn’t know his choice could eventually save his life.
“We wanted to get away from the congestion of the city, and it seemed like the perfect place to be,” Wortman said.
But not too long after they settled in, he developed a cough and fever, which concerned his wife.
“It just kept getting worse, and eventually it became so severe that he told me to call an ambulance,” she said. “We’ve been married for 13 years, and I’ve never seen him get that sick.”
At that time, Wortman thought it could be COVID-19, but the diagnosis wasn’t confirmed until he arrived at Northwell Health’s Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. Because of the severity of his pulmonary symptoms, Wortman was placed in the intensive care unit, where he would endure a weeklong battle on a ventilator.
“I don’t remember much from that first week because I was very sedated,” he said, although adding he recalls the comforting sound of his wife’s voice. Since Rachel Wortman couldn’t visit in person, the nurses helped set up an iPad for virtual visits so she could look in on him.
“He wasn’t able to talk, but being able to see him made a huge difference,” she said. “It was such a relief.”
She was also able to speak with her husband’s physician, April Caperna, receiving daily updates on Joshua Wortman’s health.
In addition to video chats, the nursing staff added a personal touch to his care.
“They asked Rachel for facts about me to post on my door, like who I am and what’s important to me,” Wortman said. “That human element meant a lot. It provided great comfort to me and my family during that time.”
Over the next week, his care team closely monitored his progress, decreasing sedation gradually to see how well he would do on his own.
“I think at some point, I just took the tube out myself,” Wortman said. “It started to get really uncomfortable, and I felt well enough for it to come out.”
Sure enough, once the tube was removed, he was able to successfully breathe on his own. He was then moved out of the ICU, where he spent the next week on oxygen and doing physical therapy exercises to get his strength back. Family medicine specialist Kaushik Manthani, and resident Kim Duffy checked on him frequently as his health stabilized and improved. Then more good news came — Wortman was cleared to go home.
Being the medical center’s first patient to come off a ventilator and make a full recovery, Wortman was celebrated by medical staff who sent him off in a clap-out parade, as his wife and son came to take him home.
“When everyone clapped for me, I got really emotional. But those on the medical staff are the real heroes,” Wortman said. “I appreciate all of them and was lucky to have been cared for by such an outstanding team. This whole experience just puts perspective on what’s important in life. I’m just so grateful.”