LIVINGSTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two medical professionals in New Jersey share a lifelong connection after helping to save one another at their most vulnerable times — one after a heart attack, the other during coronavirus.
He’s made a career of caring for others.
“Helping people is, you help everybody the same but when it’s somebody you know, it’s a special bond,” Dan Radice said.
But as an exercise specialist for cardiac patients, Radice didn’t know he’d ever be on the receiving end of that bond — until March, when he ended up in the ICU at the hospital where he works with a serious case of COVID-19.
“It was scary being a patient, very scary,” Radice told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
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Finally recovered and working again at Saint Barnabas, he’s getting to see the colleagues he credits with saving his life.
Among them, Dr. Rick Pitera.
“I just heard that there was somebody that was in the hospital that was one of our own,” he said.
But the two were much more than casual acquaintances. It turns out six years ago, Radice had helped Pitera recover from a heart attack, a connection the doctor made while working the night shift on Radice’s critical care team.
“And I go, oh my God, that’s the Danny that I know,” Pitera said.
“You couldn’t recognize anybody ’cause everybody had on their bunny suits and their goggles,” Radice said. “But when Rick started talking to me, I knew who he was immediately.”
Radice’s memory of his 23 days in the hospital is still foggy, but both men recall a moment where he was struggling to say something and Pitera told him to write it down.
“He’s writing in this terrible chicken scratch … ‘Am I gonna die tonight?’ And um, whew, that was very tough. And I said no, not if I can help it, you’re not gonna die tonight,” Pitera said.
He kept his promise, and his was the first face his friend saw after he was taken off the ventilator.
“I kind of had a feeling of ease like I was gonna be OK,” Radice said. “Thank god I took care of him so he was still here to take care of me.”
Here to help others because they helped one another, a connection Radice and Pitera will share for life.