COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Thursday is National Grateful Patient Day; a time to show gratitude for all of the healthcare workers who put their patients first. Columbus residents, Derek and Lauren Masse observed the day by visiting two doctors who played a pivotal role in recovering Derek when he was battling COVID-19.

According to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), “there have been 103,436,829 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,127,152 deaths, in the United States of America.” Piedmont physicians say Columbus experienced just about every wave of the virus since it started.

The pandemic was no exception for the 53-year-old father of three. Masse was fighting for his life against the silent virus for 51 days at Piedmont. Just after Derek was admitted into the hospital, his wife, Lauren, received a phone call that she would never forget.

“When he initially went in Friday morning, it was early around 2 a.m.,” said Lauren. “By Saturday morning, I got a phone call from his nurse and it still is very clear in my head is ‘he’s been on BiPAP, but he’s not going to he’s not going to make it much longer if we don’t put him on the ventilator.'”

Derek was admitted to the hospital weighing 285 pounds and was discharged at 209 pounds – a weight he says he hasn’t been since a freshman in high school. While Derek doesn’t remember much of his time in the hospital, Lauren has a vivid memory. She describes the quality of care her husband received as elite and why he is alive today.

The Masse family credits the entire staff for Derek’s recovery, especially the two ICU physicians who stood by his side the entire time.

“We could fill this room and the next room with all the people that are participating in his care,” said Piedmont ICU Physician Dr. Robert Crawford. “We can’t really take all the credit. I mean, the whole village,” said Piedmont ICU Physician, Dr. Gurkeerat Singh. Every one of them knows who Derek is, and every one of them is so excited that he’s doing so well,” said Dr. Crawford.

Masse says he will never forget the special care he received and its lasting impact on his life.

“I’m just grateful for all of them,” said Derek. “The doctors that came in around the clock, you know, everybody at the hospital, it was great. So I appreciate everything that they did for me.”

For the Masse’s , National Grateful Patient Day is truly a day for them to reflect on the hard times, but also be grateful for their new Piedmont family.

“They’re special to us,” said Lauren. “Piedmont will always be special. The nurses, the doctors, the therapists, everybody and everybody played a part, even down to the janitor. I mean, it seriously, it it takes a team. It’s just not one person that saved his life.”

Derek reached the one goal he had after waking up from a coma and being paralyzed. Although he was wheeled into the hospital with a high fever, Derek successfully walked out of the hospital hand in hand with his wife and a large sendoff from doctors, nurses and staff members.

The Masse family made a donation on the physicians behalf to the hospital’s foundation as a thank you for saving Derek’s life.