‘He’s a Miracle’: A Beloved Physician Walks Out of the Hospital After Battling COVID-19 for 164 Days
Dozens of colleagues cheer one of their own, emergency medicine physician Dr. Chris Belardi, as he was discharged from NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
The morning of September 8, Dr. Chris Belardi put on his signature white scrubs, slipped on his white coat, and clipped on his hospital badge, just as he has done so many times in his career as an emergency medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. But this was no ordinary day for him. Standing in his sun-drenched room on the 17th floor, it was his 164th straight day in the hospital and — as a patient who had recovered from COVID-19 — he was finally ready to go home.
With his wife, Joyce, and sons, Jess and Christian, by his side, Dr. Belardi walked out of his room to the cheers of his colleagues — the same dedicated staff who had been rooting for him since he was admitted March 28 and who supported him as he fought for his life.
“We’re really grateful for all the wonderful care,” says Joyce. “It was truly amazing — nonstop, day and night, 24 hours. It all worked.”
Dr. Belardi, who is also a clinical instructor in emergency medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, made the day even more memorable when, to the surprise of everyone who waited for him outside NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, he walked out of the revolving doors in his scrubs. At the end of the walkway, Dr. Rahul Sharma, emergency physician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, spoke on behalf of the department, calling Dr. Belardi an inspiration and that moment “one of happiest days in all of our lives.”
“We don’t often see patients in his condition get better,” says Dr. Bradley Hayward, attending physician in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “He’s a miracle who was helped by a multidisciplinary team that was with him every step of the way.”
Admired for the passion he brings to his work, Dr. Belardi is known for having a big smile on his face and showing up to his shift with an armful of homegrown goodies for his colleagues — fresh fruit, eggs, and jars of honey from his farm upstate. “Chris would always bring us his seasonal harvest,” says Dr. Sharma. “It was all done out of the goodness of his heart — generosity from a consummate professional.”
When Dr. Belardi was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March, the hospital came together to provide him the kind of care, commitment, and generosity he always showed others. In April, he was intubated and placed in a coma in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. When he was well enough to emerge from the coma in July, Dr. Hayward summed up the feeling in a single word: euphoria.
“His resiliency has been inspiring, and it’s been amazing to watch. It takes a village — therapists, nurses, doctors.”
— Dr. Nasim Chowdhury
Dr. Belardi continued to surprise and inspire his colleagues. In early August, he was transferred to the rehabilitation floor at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. When he arrived, he needed two people to help him get out of his wheelchair. About two weeks later, he could walk 120 feet. A team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists guided him even further along his road to recovery. “He was always in good spirits,” says Lauren Godas, registered nurse in the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “He was always motivated to keep moving and to get better.”
It all culminated when dozens of Dr. Belardi’s colleagues gave him a happy send-off home after five long months.
“His recovery has been remarkable,” said Dr. Nasim Chowdhury, attending physician of the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and assistant professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “His resiliency has been inspiring, and it’s been amazing to watch. It takes a village — therapists, nurses, doctors. Chris made great strides.”
Says Dr. Sharma: “His illness and hospitalization brought our team even closer. This was a true test for our department, and I am proud of the way we came together when one of our own was in crisis. It unified us as a group and made us better and stronger.”