COVID survivor acts as a mentor to others recovering from virus

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Dave Tenorio nearly lost his life to COVID-19 last April, and he’s spent the past year of the pandemic helping others recover from the disease. 

The quier of COVID this year was sometimes interrupted by pepe rallies for recovered patients like Tenorio, a St. Louis motorcycle cop who leads parades with pizazz.

His doctor, Jeremy Leidenfrost, recalled the moment Tenorio stood up from his wheelchair as he was being discharged from the hospital.

“I thought, oh, gosh, I hope he doesn’t fall!” said Leidenfrost.

When Tenorio was hospitalized, COVID had just been declared a global pandemic, and the disease still felt foreign.

“This alien would walk into my room in PPE gear,” Tenorio said. “And I’m just wondering why. What is going on?”

Tenorio had been put on a high-risk machine that takes over heart and lung function called an ECMO, which roughly 40% of COVID patients don’t survive. The combat veteran had to relearn how to walk.

Now, he pays it forward as a mentor to six other people who survived the virus.

Josh Miller was on an ECMO for 60 days. He was so weak, he could barely move his fingers.

“I was laying in bed thinking I’m never going to be the same,” Miller said. “And Dave comes in and tells me about his experience and his road to recovery. And here he is a year later and he’s doing great.”

Tenorio said, “It makes me very emotional to to know that I was able to help this young man out and I call him my little brother now. It’s been very healing for me as well.”

Leidenfrost said that after Tenorio visits patients, he has seen an increase in patients’ physical recovery. 

“He basically gives them a light at the end of the tunnel,” Leidenfrost said.

Miller has improved from his weakened state, and is now walking on his own, without a walker. 

“It has really, really helped me to be able to talk with Joshua.” Tenorio said. “We’re family now, as far as I’m concerned.”

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