The Corbelli family was prepared for anything, with doctors informing them of virtually every possible outcome as the days went on that their husband – their father – continued to be unconscious in a coma due to infection from COVID-19.
They weren’t allowed to see him except on Facetime, and even then, he was unconscious and didn’t look like the man they knew.
They hoped for the best possible outcome, but knew that the worst could happen.
Ten days in a coma went on to 15 days, and then 20 days, and finally 30 days.
But after that excruciating time, Joao Corbelli, began to stir, and then he awoke from his coma – weak, but recovering. After two long weeks at a rehabilitation hospital in Braintree, Corbelli was able to return home on the day before Father’s Day – making it an utterly emotional and timely return to the family’s Everett home.
“My dad did come home the day before Father’s Day on June 20 and we were so grateful to have him back,” said his daughter, Lorena Corbelli, a senior at Everett High that helped lead the #StayHomeEverett movement in April. “When we went to pick him up it was so amazing. There were times the doctors had told us – just prepared us for what could happen…It’s amazing he was able to come home and celebrate Father’s Day.”
It has been a situation where the home – which had been full of uncertainty – has now once again been restored, and a hole in the family had been filled.
“He was in a coma 30 days and in the hospital,” said Lorena. “He was gone a long time. We didn’t know anyone that had COVID-19 and had stayed in the hospital so long. My dad did everything around the house. He would fix things here and help me work on my car. When he was gone our boiler broke and my car had trouble. It’s always been my dad, myself, my mom and my sister. When he was gone, the house felt empty. When he walked back in, the house didn’t feel empty anymore. It felt full again and our family felt whole.”
Earlier this spring, Joao – who works at the Westin in Boston in the Maintenance Department – began not feeling well. He drove himself to the hospital, and that is literally the last time he remembers anything before waking up from the coma.
“He told us the last thing he remembers was going to the hospital,” she said. “We showed him pictures of his face and body and he didn’t even recognize himself.”
Joao started his time in care at Cambridge Hospital and then was transferred to Best Israel where he was on a machine giving him care 24/7 for his kidneys – which were being damaged by COVID. After 30 days there, he did wake up about four weeks ago.
It was a moment that Lorena said would be a changing moment for her life.
“At first he slowly opened his eyes,” she said. “We could only see him on Facetime, but I could tell he missed us so much by looking at his eyes. It was life-changing for me because when he was in the hospital he got pressure sores. I realized it wasn’t going to be a great idea for me to see him that way. Once I saw he started opening his eyes, I wanted to see him again. We were so relieved he was okay. It was so emotional when he woke up.”
While their father was gone, Lorena said the family did their best to take on new responsibilities to try to fill in the gaps left by Joao not being there. Lorena took on cooking duties while her sister, Lorraine, and her mother, Marileda, went back to work and tried to help pay the bills. Her sister even tried to fix the boiler when it broke, which was brand new territory. Interestingly, none of the rest of the family got COVID-19 or showed any symptoms, and they are not sure how their father came down with it. They don’t know of anyone close to them that also got it. However he got it, it got him good and took an otherwise healthy and strong man to the brink.
Lorena said everyone should realize that the virus is not a joke, and that anyone can get it. She said she participated in the #StayHomeEverett campaign as a way to draw attention to that fact, and to let people know she was trying to keep her home safe and healthy for when her dad came home.
No one knew if that would happen, but Lorena said they had hope, and now her father is recovering nicely – and it’s been great to have him home, even if he’s not quite ready to fix the boiler or her car. “We know it will take a while, but he’s getting stronger every day,” she said. “We try to give him what he wants. When he came home, he was tired of hospital food and wanted a huge bowl of pasta – which we gave him…He used a walker the first week at home and the other day he decided he didn’t need it and walked on his own. It’s those things that fill us with happiness.