He's Screaming Steve Barlotta and he's the sax player of the Sensational Soul Cruisers for the last 32 years. He's also played with such Jersey greats including Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, and Jon Bon Jovi. His most important accomplishment was beating COVID 19.

Steve's told his story on The Today Show and in my studio on New Jersey 101.5.

You can hear our interview on New Jersey 101.5 On-Demand starting at 1:03:50

"In March of 2020, in the beginning of the pandemic, I wound up contracting COVID on March 25 and taking a year Odyssey to get better," says Barlotta.

That odyssey lasted 103 days of fighting 36 days at ICU, 28 of them on a ventilator surviving through a cytokine storm, 37 days in the ICU at CentraState Freehold, and over two months in a rehabilitation hospital.

Barlotta flashes back:

"It started the day the quarantine started. We went to a friend's house. We wound up staying a couple of hours and two days later they called and said 'I'm running fever,'" says Barlotta. "Two days later, I'm getting cough and the following day started running a 104 fever. Unbeknownst to us, our friend was in Las Vegas a few days before also he caught it on the flight and brought it back from Vegas."

Barlotta went into CentraState Hospital.

"I remember sending my wife a picture. The last picture I took was they had just run a line and it was the last picture I took and it was the last time I saw them for nearly four months."

Keep in mind this is the early stages of the pandemic.

Barlotta says, "I remember it was March 25 going to the hospital. This is the time the COVID tests are taking a long time to get back, they didn't know what to do. They thought I had strep. They started treating me for strep but I had COVID and progressively got sick."

Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube
Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube

Once they found it was COVID what did they do?

"Early on," says Barlotta, "I was running a high fever I had COVOD lungs, I remember the nurse (Kim) coming in and saying 'Steve you have COVID pneumonia', and they started prepping me and already telling me that I'll be going on a ventilator."

Barlotta said he was on high-flow oxygen and having a tough time breathing and passing out.

It was at that time the nurse came in and told Barlotta, "Steve you need to call your wife, you're going to be intubated,' and Barlotta was shaking his head no. After repeatedly trying and holding the phone up, she finally wrote on a piece of paper, "Steve you need to call your wife now, you're going to be intubated and there's a good chance you're not going to come back from this."

Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube
Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube

What do you think about at a time like this?

"Really the only thing you think about was I a good enough father, was I good to my kids? I didn't think about the mortgage, I didn't think about the bills. When it really comes down to it, you only think about life, you know the life you're leaving behind.

"I was then intubated. My wife fought really hard for me to get the convalescent plasma", which was hard finding a match because it was so early and people weren't donating. "So we had to wait. My wife ended up speaking to people at Johns Hopkins. They wound up getting me a positive match at CentraState. I was the first or second person."

"The day they gave it to me, they started weening me off the vent. Two days later I was off the ventilator."

Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube
Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube

A few days later and it could have been a lot worse.

"I was in a medically induced coma and I remember biting on the tube. I was one day away from being trached [a Tracheostomy]. My son, who's a cardiologist, told them, 'Don't trach him, he'll never play the saxophone again.'"

What was it like being intubated?

"I'd have these dreams that I lived in Mayberry, I was going fishing, Aunt Bee was cooking me chicken and my neuropsychologist says that was your body's way of fighting it, staying in a happy place. I'd also have these dreams that I was in the Bahamas with my wife and my sons that I had beat COVID and I was high fiving them."

Any out of body experience?

"I had this experience where I felt my spirit come out of my body and I felt so at peace, and I remember looking up and seeing this white light and around it the most beautiful place. It looked like Fiji meets the Amalfi coast meets the Pacific coast highway. And a voice said to me while I was looking up, 'It's not your time yet go home to your family.'"

Steve playing with Bruce Springsteen Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube
Steve playing with Bruce Springsteen Via CentraState Healthcare System on YouTube

"I must thank the caregivers who saved my life at the hospital and to the whole team at Encompass Rehabilitation Center of Tinton Falls who gave me the strength to walk again."

You can hear more from Steve Bartlotta on March 23-25.

"I’m a guest speaker at a wellness retreat for COVID-19 long haulers at Saint Alfonse Retreat House in Long Branch."

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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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