A year ago on Monday, Gabriel Cid was hospitalized while suffering from COVID-19. He spent 37 days inside Greenwich Hospital, three weeks of which were spent hooked up to a ventilator.
But exactly a year later, Cid returned to run his first-ever 5K, as a way to thank the health care heroes who saved his life. Running may have been the furthest thing from his mind when he went to the hospital last year.
"One year ago today, I was in bed, struggling to breathe. My wife said you should probably call the doctor, you don't look good. She noticed my lips were turning purple," Cid said. "They were trying to get me to open up lungs up again, but I kept getting worse and worse."
He said that the ups and downs of the hills during his three-mile run represent his battle against COVID, which last over a month. He said he was twice put on a ventilator, coming off after after spending 18 days on the machine, but he soon went back down again and it had to be done again. He acknowledged the odds of his survival at that point were "very, very limited."
But he did survive, thanks to the more than 150 burses and doctors who cared from him throughout the course of his battle. Cid calls those hospital staff members his "Greenwich Hospital angels, because they are my angels."
Those same "angels" were the same people greeted him at the end of his 5K run Monday. That includes nurse Ellen Stacom, who said she was the last person he saw before he was intubated. Cid recalled Stacom asking him if he wanted to pray right before he went under, and that she "held my hand and we prayed and cried together."
Even after he was put into a medically induced coma, that prayer was answered —much to the shock of Stacom.
"I would have never believed it. We didn't think he was going to make it out of the ICU," she said.
Somehow, Cid became the 2,500th COVID patient to leave Greenwich Hospital.
"In May, I left the hospital in a wheelchair. I lost 50 pounds. My goal at that point was to get from the bed to the walker and then maybe use the walker to go to the bathroom. That was my big exercise for the day," he said. "I've never been a runner so I never dreamt, that I would be a runner after what I went through, how I felt coming out of the hospital."
He said was running to deliver his message of gratitude to all the staff that helped him.
"All the nurses and doctors, 150 people who everyday sacrificed their own lives, their families to get me out of there. That's why I'm doing this today, for them. It's not for me, it's for them. They fought so hard for me and I owe it to them," Cid said.
The 45-year-old still has residual pain from COVID. He's gone through therapy, has a trainer and is now surrounded by family and plenty of friends. While he successfully crossed a literal finish line on Monday, his journey is still a long way from being over.
"I just want to thank all of you guys. Without you, this wouldn't have been possible," Cid said. "And anyone who's watching this — please vaccinate. Don't risk (hospital workers') lives anymore, they work so hard."