ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Surrounded by dozens of cheering doctors and nurses, a 19-year-old St. Lucie County man with Down syndrome was released from the hospital on Thursday after a grueling battle with the coronavirus.
Jose Zacapa spent nearly three weeks in the ICU after suffering complications from COVID-19. At one point, he was placed on a ventilator.
But after weeks of recovery, Zacapa was discharged from Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce on Thursday to bursts of cheers and applause from the medical staff.
Zacapa is a special needs student at St. Lucie West Centennial High School.
Many of his classmates, friends, and family members greeted the teen outside the hospital on Thursday with balloons and signs.
"When he walked out and I saw his face, I just kind of, felt like time stopped," said Lauren Walker, Zacapa's teacher for the past six years. "I became just so overwhelmed with emotion because I didn't know if I was ever going to get to hold him again or see him again."
The teen and his mother, Rosy, were both diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month and hospitalized.
Rosy Zacapa is out of the hospital and feeling better, although she's using an oxygen tank to help her with breathing.
"Jose is a huge success story for our staff and for our hospital as a whole," said Jennifer Winans, the Clinical Coordinator at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center. "Those nurses and those respiratory therapists and everybody that was involved in the unit and his care, the physicians worked very hard on him."
Lawnwood is one of four hospitals across the state and one of 154 hospitals across the country that's taking part in a clinical study related to the treatment of COVID-19 patients with Remdesivir, an antiviral drug.
Zacapa was part of the clinical study, hospital officials said.
This story was originally published by Ryan Hughes and Matt Papaycik on WPTV in West Palm Beach.