‘Miracle’ COVID-19 survivor Larry Kelly reflects on near-death experience two years on from coma, ‘Like someone was trying to kill me’
Posted On April 30, 2022
WARNING: Images below may disturb some readers
Pneumonia in both lungs. A continuous seizure coupled with high fever for 30 days. A “massive” brain haemorrhage. Sepsis. Withdrawal from the opioid painkiller Fentanyl…
He would spend 51 days on a ventilator and a total of 128 days in hospital before he was released to start extensive rehabilitation.
Mr Kelly, a retired teacher, was one of New York City’s first COVID-19 patients — the second to be admitted to Mount Sinai hospital in March — before a catastrophic surge in infections.
As the Sayville native’s body struggled to fight the virus the then-64-year-old was given a slim chance of survival.
When he wearily opened his eyes on Easter Sunday April 12, his recovery was deemed a “miracle”.
Mr Kelly’s experience with the virus is documented in the award-winning documentary The Surge at Mt Sinai.
He spoke to 9news.com.au two years on from his near-death experience and revealed he still struggles with flashbacks and PTSD.
“When it’s quiet just before sleep late at night, sometimes, not all the time, it reminds me of going into the coma,” he said.
“I have trouble sleeping.
“I don’t like darkness now.”
Doctors fought a fierce battle to save Mr Kelly, but two factors complicated his treatment; the virus ravaging is body was new to them and at the time, he was one of the longest patients to have even been on a ventilator.
“Everything that was happening with me was sort of experimental,” he said.
“They were making it up as they went along.
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“I was given Fentanyl for weeks. More than what was normally given I found out later. I had withdrawals in the coma.
“It took weeks for me to be weaned down on methadone.”
Mr Kelly claims he had period of lucidity, while in the coma and the sense of terror was overwhelming.
“I had a continuous sense that someone was trying to kill me…I personified the virus,” he said.
He explained he later told doctors he counted 10 days, only to be told he had been under for five times that.
“The coma was terrifying.
“I would scream at the virus, but after that I would start praying.
“It seemed like forever”.
When Mr Kelly finally walked out of Mount Sinai’s doors — after overcoming paralysis from his neck down — people around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Fast forward almost two years and he just has some atrophy in his hands and a drop foot, which is “getting better”.
But aspects of Mr Kelly’s case still puzzle doctors today.
“After the brain haemorrhage the blood reabsorbed back into my brain, doctors can’t explain why,” he said.
As COVID-19 cases one again surge around the world with the spread of multiple infectious Omicron strains, Mr Kelly has one message; get vaccinated.
“I really believe we are in a war,” he said.
“The virus is responsible for so many ills around the world; the economy, unemployment, homelessness.
“We won’t get back to that ‘flu-normal’ until everyone is vaccinated.
“So get a little needle in your arm. It’s not about personal freedom, it’s about how you feel about your fellow human beings.”