Hospital staff cheer for coronavirus patient leaving ICU in heartwarming video

Heartwarming video shows staffers at an Alabama hospital cheering for its first coronavirus patient after he recovered enough to be removed from a ventilator.

Tony Thornton, of Auburn, was wheeled out of an intensive care unit Tuesday after being taken off life support two days earlier at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, hospital officials said.

“A celebration took place at EAMC today,” a Facebook post featuring video of Thornton’s transfer read. “That’s when 48-year-old Tony Thornton became the first COVID-19 patient at EAMC to recover well enough to be removed from ventilation and moved from the ICU to a regular medical room.”

Dozens of staffers lined a hallway as Thornton was transferred to his new room. At one point, he raised his hand and appeared to give a fist bump of approval to one hospital employee, video shows.

“I am still weak, but feeling pretty good,” Thornton later said in statement released by the hospital. “I talked to my wife for the first time and that was wonderful.”

Thornton, who was admitted to the hospital March 20 before being intubated, also stressed the need for people to take stay-at-home orders seriously.

“People need to follow the guidelines,” he said. “This is a big deal.”

Twenty-nine other COVID-19 patients at the hospital have recovered well enough to be sent home, hospital officials said.

There have been more than 2,200 coronavirus cases confirmed in Alabama, with 65 reported deaths — 48 of which have been confirmed, Alabama Public Health data shows.

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