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TAMPA, Fla. – A Florida nurse paralyzed by the effects of a COVID-19-related illness returned home Monday after spending eight months in a Boston hospital.

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“It has been long-awaited and highly anticipated,” 23-year-old Desmon Silva said in a video, according to BayNews9.

Silva tested positive for COVID-19 last summer, WFTS reported. He recovered and returned to work at Largo Medical Center, the television station reported.

On July 16, Silva went to dinner with his girlfriend when he began having neck pains, WTVT reported. Within minutes, he lost feeling in his hands and was rushed to a hospital, where doctors found him unresponsive, the television station reported. Silva was immediately placed on a ventilator and wheeled into an intensive care unit.

Doctors diagnosed Silva with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, BayNews9 reported. It is a rare disease that attacks the central nervous system after viral infections.

“It kind of laid dormant in his system, and it just attacked the immune system as well as his spinal cord and central nervous system,” Silva’s mother, Barbara Bonnett, told WFXT. “It was very acute, very fast that it happened, and at that point, it just shut everything down.”

The infection left Silva paralyzed and on a ventilator. His family raised money to have Silva flown from Florida to Boston for additional care over the summer, WFLA reported.

He spent months at Massachusetts General Hospital undergoing rehabilitation therapy, WFXT reported.

“I can’t put into words, traumatic, everything it has taken away from you,” Silva’s stepmother, Lynette Silva, told WFTS. “He can’t do anything on his own. He needs a machine to breathe for him. Pretty difficult but he keeps a positive mindset through all of this.”

Tampa-based Jet ICU covered Desmon Silva’s flight expenses to Massachusetts and his return home, WTVT reported.

“We heard about the case, he’s a local, so it hits home,” Jared Wayt, director of Emergency Medical Services at Jet ICU, told WFXT. “It’s extra special when we’re able to take care of one of our own, you know, we’re all health care providers going through all this together.”

Monday, Desmon Silva was home again, and despite the paralysis, he could not be happier.

“All the support and social media. I think it’s brought really good awareness to COVID because it goes to show how unknown it really is,” Desmon Silva told WFTS. “I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.”

Desmon Silva still has to use a ventilator, and his family will be looking for a wheelchair van to take him to appointments, WTSP reported. He hopes to eventually return to nursing, the television station reported.

Silva’s family started a GoFundMe page to cover medical expenses. As of Tuesday evening, more than $158,000 has been raised.

“It’s been difficult. You’re kind of helpless, in a way,” Desmon Silva’s father, Jose Silva, told BayNews9. “To see him smiling and joking actually gives us strength to keep moving forward with his recovery.”

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