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‘The Miracle Man’: Pawtucket native with Down Syndrome survives COVID-19

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Joey Pires is a survivor and inspiration. 

In early April, the 37-year-old Pawtucket native, who lives with Down Syndrome, was diagnosed with COVID-19.

He was initially cared for at Providence’s ReFocus Group Home, where he is a resident. For the past 10 years there, Kerri Martin has been one of the nurses to care for him.

Martin said she considers it a gift to work with Pires. She said he teaches her “how to love, and laugh, and enjoy, and appreciate.”

When he first contracted the virus, Martin sang to Pires in order to make him smile and feel better.

Unfortunately, she says she had a feeling his illness was going to get much worse.

When he gets sick, he gets sick big. He doesn’t just do anything halfway,” Martin said. 

Martin said Pires’ battle with COVID-19 started with a fever but quickly progressed in a matter of days. His older sister, Silvana Monteiro, said they were concerned about sending him to the hospital because he would have to go alone due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Unfortunately, Pires’ deteriorating health left them with no choice.

“He has, like, a 3-year-old brain. So, when he looked at me and said ‘sick, sick,’ it broke my heart,” Monteiro explained. 

When her brother got to Rhode Island Hospital, Monteiro said he was intubated, so she had no way of communicating with him. Days later, she and Martin got an upsetting call.

“They called asking us to DNR [do-not-resuscitate order] him, saying that this was really bad,” Martin explained. “That we really needed to think about what our next step was.”

But in what Martin and Monteiro classify as a miracle, Pires pulled his ventilator out the following day and began breathing on his own.

Two days later, he pulled out his feeding tube and started to eat.

After 32 days, he was finally released from the hospital – returning a crowd of people at his group home, who have dubbed him “The Miracle Man.”

“I’m just glad he’s out and has another chance to live,” Monteiro said. “It feels surreal that this even happened. I was preparing for the worst, to be honest with you. He’s a miracle. He’s unbelievable this kid.”

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