Hope banner outside on the Helen Hayes Hospital campus

Christopher Perez's Story

Frontline Hero Overcomes COVID-19

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Christopher Perez was bravely serving on the frontlines as a CNA at a mental health hospital. As he was providing his patients with the vital care they needed during such trying times, Chris himself contracted COVID-19 and sustained a stroke at just 26 years old. His cognition was affected and he lost almost all movement on his left side. Chris’s doctor told him that he had only about a 30% chance of ever walking again.

But Chris wasn’t one to give up hope. When he arrived at Helen Hayes Hospital, he dove headfirst into his rehab program, determined to make every moment count. He gave his all in therapy each day, was always eager to try new things, and never admitted when he was tired. He was happy to put in the hard work knowing it would help him to achieve his goals of regaining his mobility and returning to his rewarding career, even if it meant prolonging his length of stay when he had not been home or seen his family and friends in weeks.

A caregiver at heart, Chris also served as an unending source of strength and encouragement for our patients and staff, even as he was working to overcome his own obstacles. He quickly became a part of our hospital family, reaching out to fellow patients on his unit when they needed support and making certain that every member of the staff he encountered felt his appreciation. COVID may have temporarily taken Chris away from his hospital position, but he never stopped serving on the frontlines as a healthcare worker and healer.

Chris also never stopped pushing himself to succeed and stunned everyone—including himself—with his progress. He so consistently challenged himself, asking for extra exercises or playing video games that utilized his left hand, that by the end of his stay it was hard to tell which hand had been affected by the stroke. He shattered all doctors’ expectations and just one week before his 27th birthday, Chris was discharged from HHH able to walk distances without any assistance! Today, he continues to work hard and make amazing progress in outpatient therapy and plans to enter nursing school in the future.