Prior to his exit celebration, Valentin Ionescu had been on a ventilator for 16 days and in an induced coma in the hospital

By Joelle Goldstein
May 22, 2020 07:52 PM
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A Long Island rehab center gave one man the ultimate sendoff after he became their 50th patient to be discharged following his battle with COVID-19.

Since April 27, Valentin Ionescu had been living at Glengariff Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Glen Cove, New York, while his body fought off the debilitating virus.

On Friday, he officially got to put those challenging days behind him as he exited the rehab center to a celebratory car parade from the Glengariff staff and community members — a sweet moment that was captured on video.

"The good treatment I received was the single most important factor in my recovery," Valentin, 65, said. "They were all excellent and helped me. All of the team were extremely professional and did their very best every day. What more could I ask?"

Valentin Ionescu leaving the rehab center
CareRite Centers

After being diagnosed with coronavirus last month, Valentin was admitted to the hospital, where he spent 16 days on a ventilator and in an induced coma, his wife Galina explained.

"He was weak and confused, and it was such a different time for both of us," Galina, 65, shared. "It took him almost a month to get back to where he was before."

When Valentin was finally able to leave the hospital, Galina said she knew she wanted to take him to Glengariff, where she has worked for the past 15 years as a physical therapist assistant.

"I wanted to bring him here after being diagnosed," she explained of the rehab center, which is part of the CareRite Centers network. "As a physical therapist assistant, it is so difficult to see people so sick. This time around, it was more difficult as a wife, and I cried so many times, but we came through together."

Valentin Ionescu with everyone at his car parade
CareRite Centers

Upon his arrival at the center, Vice President of CareRite Centers, Ashley Romano, tells PEOPLE that Valentin "was unable to walk and needed extensive assistance."

Over the last few weeks, however, the staff at Glengariff worked with him to help him recover — something for which Valentin said he was incredibly grateful.

"My wife came at the start and end of her shift each day, but in between her visits, the team made me feel so supported," he said.

Galina also echoed her husband's sentiments and credited her colleagues for their help in his recovery.

"To see him now, I’m so happy. My co-workers are so helpful; it’s unbelievable. We both trust the staff, and know the therapy is good," she said. "Everything and everyone is helpful. ... Everyone at Glengariff treats you like family, it’s so important."

Valentin Ionescu leaving the rehab center
CareRite Centers

In honor of Valentin's discharge on Friday, he was given a Brooklyn Nets jersey with his name and the number 50 written it  — a nod to him being the center's 50th COVID patient to return home.

He was then rolled out in a wheelchair to a huge group of people applauding and cheering his accomplishment. The staff also decorated the exterior of the rehab center with balloons, confetti and signs.

"The reason I am able to walk out [today]? Because I followed the plan of the team and was determined to complete it," Valentin said.

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The parade was equally as special for Glengariff's staff, who Romano says work day-in and day-out to make these moments happen.

"It was a joy to watch him walk out of our community," she tells PEOPLE. "To send home our 50th recovery wasn't only momentous for our patient and his family, it was a symbol of strength and commitment for every team member that had made these recoveries their priority throughout this entire pandemic."

"We are thankful to service the Glen Cove community and look forward to many more recoveries," Romano adds.

As of Friday, there have been more than 1.6 million cases and at least 95,883 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. New York currently leads the country with at least 362,991 cases and 28,802 deaths reported, according to the Times.

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