'I almost didn't make it home': Boston cop's COVID-19 battle
"It's a life-altering experience," said the 38-year-old. "I just want to thank all the nurses and doctors for a second chance at life"
By Joe Dwinell
BOSTON — Omar Borges said he felt as if the whole world was praying for him.
"I almost didn't make it," the 38-year-old Boston cop said of his battle with coronavirus. "But I knew people were praying for me. People had prayer circles. Pastors were praying for me. The power of prayer is real. I'm here because of it."
Borges spoke to the Herald Wednesday eight months after catching COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic. He was in the hospital when fellow BPD officer Jose Fontanez, 53, died from the virus. He praised the courageous nurses and doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Milton Hospital who saved him.
"A lot of people weren't surviving," Borges said. "It was a hotbed at the time. Every first responder and front-line worker are true heroes."
Boston police spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle said 193 BPD employees have come down with the virus and 4,583 "exposure forms" were filled out. But, as Borges said, officers still keep reporting for duty. Borges joined the force in 2005 and serves in the drug control unit.
"The lowest point I can remember was driving to the hospital myself and being told I had COVID," he said. "I was not expecting anything like that."
Borges urged everyone to take the virus deadly seriously: "It's real. This virus doesn't look at age, wealth, skin color or gender. You can be asymptomatic, have a cough or die from it."
More than 300,000 Americans have died from the virus, and Boston is again seeing a surge in cases as hospital ICUs fill up.
Borges said the nurses kept his family updated constantly, even using their own cell phones to report in and video chat from the bedside.
"That was my highest point, waking up and being able to speak with my family," the married father of four said. "That and getting discharged were second best moments in my life, other than the birth of my kids."
He said his children — who range in age from a freshman in high school to a 1-year-old — still talk about the day dad left the hospital to cheers from colleagues on the force to nurses and doctors.
"It's a life-altering experience," he said. "I just want to thank all the nurses and doctors. I want to thank you for a second chance at life."
Borges said he hugs his kids a little tighter these days realizing home is what really matters. "Going through this shed a brighter light on what important. It's family and friends. If it wasn't for them, this would have been a lot different. You get lost. I almost didn't come home."
When police are offered the coronavirus vaccine, he's going to take it. So too will most other officers, the Herald has learned.
[POLICE1 SURVEY: Cops, will you get a COVID-19 vaccine?]
Until then, Borges said he's focused on regaining his strength so he can get back to work. "I'm only 38," he added with a laugh, "there's not much for me to do but get back to work."
(c)2020 the Boston Herald