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49-year-old recovers from coronavirus after 32 days on life support

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Hingham, Massachusetts – Jim Bello, at 49, was a healthy father of three kids with no underlying conditions when he contracted coronavirus. "He was in the best shape going in [to this]," his wife, Kim, told CBS Boston. 

Then, on March 7, while on a ski trip before stay-at-home advisories were in place, Jim got sick – first, with a fever. The coronavirus was still a relatively new virus in the United States, and the Bellos thought he didn't have it.

Still, he went to his primary care doctor at South Shore hospital. After a few tests and treatments, he was sent home. Then, according to his wife, he soon woke up and couldn't breathe. He eventually tested positive for COVID-19

After a trip to the ER, the family made the decision to transition him to Mass General Hospital to be intubated as things got worse.

"Before he went under, he was like, 'What if I don't make it?" And I was like 'You're going make it,'" Kim said. 

Jim was put on a ventilator and an ECMO life support machine. Kim trusted the doctors and nurses to treat him for the novel virus, and didn't worry yet. She and the kids weren't able to speak to him or visit him, until things got worse.

About two weeks into his treatment at MGH, Jim took a turn and Kim received a call from the doctor. "I asked the doctor, I said, 'well do you think he's got a chance?'" Kim said she wasn't ready for what came next. "I don't give him a very good chance," the doctor said. 

It was the hardest point for Kim emotionally as she tried to be strong for her children. "That's when I lost it," she said. "I just kept thinking, 'There's no way. There's no way he can leave me with three kids.' He's like the best father, best husband, best everything."

Doctors considered more drastic treatment measures, and at one point took Jim off a paralyzing drug to prepare for a procedure. At that point, Kim says he started to show signs of potential recovery. "He literally woke up. And the nurse said squeeze my hand twice and he squeezed her hand twice," Kim said. "They saw how alive he was inside."

With some small setbacks, it was a steady uphill climb from that point.

The day the Bello family had been waiting for finally came: April 15, when Jim was escorted out of the ICU. The beautiful moment was captured by MGH nursing staff. Health care workers lined the halls applauding Jim as he was moved out of the ICU.

Jim Bello is escorted out of ICU at Mas General Hospital. CBS Boston

"He's realizing that he really is a miracle," Kim said. "It's unbelievable that he made it through."

On April 17, Jim was discharged from Mass General and moved to Spaulding Rehab. He can already walk with a walker and is working on getting better to eventually go home to his family.

The Bello family set up a GoFundMe page to support the front line workers at Mass General as they fight this virus. So far, they've been able to consistently send meals to the nurses and doctors in the ICU as a "thank you" for all they've done. "They're doing more than they were trained to do," Kim said.

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