While You Were Gone …One Family's Story of Hope and Strength in the Pandemic

By Steve Politi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Michael Somekh spent 55 days on a ventilator as doctors fought the ravages of COVID-19. He doesn't remember any of it. His friends and family? They'll never forget.

“The patient, while suffering horrors beyond the imagination, will never know the pain his family felt watching someone they love being so very sick.”

Dr. Paul Yodice, chairman of medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston

DAY 1: MARCH 18 | “No big deal”

Michael Somekh felt awful. He shoved a few things into a small backpack -- two T-shirts, two pairs of underwear, his toiletry bag -- and drove himself to Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

He figured he'd be there a day. Two, tops.

"I just need a breathing treatment," he texted his family before leaving.

It was March 18.

At the time, New Jersey had 427 reported cases of COVID-19 and five deaths. The ailment was so new that Somekh (pronounced So-MECK) wasn’t even aware of its name. To him, it was still just “the coronavirus.”

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