For the first time in 168 days, Lt. Yvan Pierre-Louis has come home.
The NYPD officer was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March and spent close to six months in a hospital — almost four of them on a ventilator.
Three days before his 59th birthday, Pierre-Louis arrived home Saturday afternoon to roaring cheers from about 100 people that lined the sidewalks outside his house on Ingraham Boulevard in Hempstead.
Family members and friends dressed in white and waved flags of Haiti, where Pierre-Louis was born, as the 29-year NYPD veteran cop slowly walked up to a large "Welcome Home" banner at the back of his house. In the background, trumpeters played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"I feel blessed," Pierre-Louis said in a phone interview Friday night before his return. "From no hope to hope, that was a lot."
Pierre-Louis considered himself lucky to have survived a deadly virus that has killed more than 193,000 Americans.
In the police department he works for, 5,875 officers and civilian workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and 46 of them have died as of Sept. 1, according to the NYPD.
Pierre-Louis’ 86-year-old mother, Maria Lina Pierre-Louis, died in May of COVID-19 while he was in a coma. For months, some of his co-workers and friends didn’t think he would live.
Because he was on a ventilator for so long, "we definitely thought he wasn’t going to make it," said Capt. Garfield McLeod, Pierre-Louis’ commanding officer. "It’s breathtaking to say the least. It’s a miracle for us."
Pierre-Louis’ daughter Diane Latham of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, however, never doubted that her father would pull through.
"There were some scary moments. But in my heart, I always believed that he was going to be OK," Latham said Friday night. "That’s why I kept on advocating … and pushing. I wanted to leave nothing on the table because we didn’t want to give up."
Pierre-Louis was first admitted to NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola on March 28 and placed on a ventilator that night, his family said. His condition didn’t improve until he was transferred to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in May.
Over the summer, the Pierre-Louis family rented an apartment near the hospital. Pierre-Louis’ wife, Isabelle, and three children, Ralph Remy, also an NYPD officer; Yvan Pierre-Louis Jr., a New York City schoolteacher; and Latham took turns attending to him every day.
There, he came off the ventilator in July and stayed at a rehabilitation center until Saturday, according to his daughter.
"We knew what it took to get him back home to us," said Latham, a 32-year-old nurse who works at the same Pennsylvania hospital. "We were his drive to get better."
Before falling sick, Pierre-Louis worked at NYPD’s Manhattan court section where he ran its third platoon, which is tasked to bring people to judges for arraignment.
"Anyone that came through him, whether you were arrested for murder or you were arrested for shoplifting, he treated everyone the same," McLeod said, calling Pierre-Louis a "charismatic" leader who was well-liked by officers in his platoon.
Lt. Claude Celestin of Floral Park, an NYPD officer, recalled the time Pierre-Louis mentored him during trips to Haiti to help train the police force there from 2010-16.
"He was leading the unit for six years," said Celestin, president of the Haitian American Law Enforcement Fraternal Organization, of which Pierre-Louis is a member. "He’s a man with a big heart. He loves people. He’s well-known in the community."
After his return home, Pierre-Louis said, he will focus on recovery and is not sure if he would go back to work. As far as McLeod is concerned, Pierre-Louis could retire if he wanted to.
"He got a second chance in life," McLeod said. "At this point, he needs to just relax and enjoy life."