Bobby Johnson, a longtime postal clerk, had been sick for more than a week when he drove himself to Newton-Wellesley Hospital on March 31.
When he parked his 2019 Jeep Cherokee and went into the hospital, the 40-year-old Waltham resident figured it would be like a typical doctor’s appointment, and they would run some tests. But little did he know he would not be able to leave for a very long time.
“I drove myself in, thinking I’d go home that day,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
His throat was sore and he had a cough that wasn’t getting better. He’d also had a fever and had been experiencing back pain and a mild headache for about a week.
The medical staff at Newton-Wellesley gave him two nasal swab tests to see if he had the coronavirus. Both tests came back negative, he said.
But when they checked his oxygen levels, they were dangerously low.
“They said, ‘We have to put you in a coma for a week,’ ” he said. At that point, he didn’t think he had COVID-19, since both tests came back negative.
“As far as I knew, I had pneumonia,” he said.
On April 2, he was put into a coma and placed on a ventilator. He didn’t come off the ventilator until April 17.
It wasn’t until a third test was administered that it was confirmed that he had contracted COVID-19.
“I didn’t know until I got out of my coma,” he said.
On April 20, he was transferred to Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge, where he remained until he was released on Monday.
Johnson usually works for the United States Postal Service as a clerk at the Post Office in West Newton. He’s been employed by the Postal Service since March 1999, so this marks his 21st year on the job.
He is one of many postal workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the coronavirus outbreak. (As of April 28, 131 Postal Service employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island had tested positive for COVID-19, according to John Flattery, president of the Central Massachusetts Area chapter Local 4553 of the American Postal Workers Union.)
Now that Johnson is home, he’s focused on his recovery and regaining his strength back.
“I’m feeling good, but I’m definitely weak,” he said. “My throat is a little irritated. I’ve lost a lot of weight.”
He said he’s thankful to the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff that cared for him throughout this ordeal.
Johnson is happy to be back at his house in Waltham with his wife, Nicole, and 13-year-old son, Joseph.
“It’s good to be home,” he said.
When Johnson finally went home Monday, he was treated to a parade of vehicles welcoming him.
“It was incredible,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t expecting that at all."
Denice Cartwright of Belmont was one of many people who participated in the motorcade for Johnson. She’s a friend of the family and has known Johnson since he was a teenager.
“I popped out of a sunroof and was screaming,” she said. “It was so good to see him.”
Cartwright said Johnson was the last person you’d expect to be sidelined by illness.
“He’s a healthy, 40-year-old man who works out, and doesn’t smoke,” she said. “He didn’t have any underlying conditions. Him of all people ...we were horrified that this happened to him.”
“We still can’t believe everything he went through," she said.