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'I've been through hell, and I'm now in heaven': COVID-19 survivor gives back to hospital staff

Richard Pellegrino donated 60 lunches to the team at WellStar Cobb who, he says, saved his life.

AUSTELL, Ga. — It’s a time where we feed, for inspiration, off each other.

Malcolm Lewis runs The Cenacle Coffee and Bistro in Austell. Last week the shop got a call from a regular customer whose story had touched tens of thousands.

"It inspired me so much," Lewis says. "I just had to listen."

The caller was Richard Pellegrino. The 65-year-old had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and put on a ventilator. He was in the hospital for 19 days until, finally, he rolled into the sun and took his first steps to family.

We covered Pellegrino's recovery. But this was a new story.

“It really struck me as full circle," Lewis said. "You’re blessed, and now you’re able to reach back and bless somebody else.”

Pellegrino called The Cenacle. He offered to pay for 60 lunches for the team at WellStar Cobb that helped him through.

“Saving one’s life is priceless," Pellegrino told 11Alive's Matt Pearl, "so there’s really nothing I could do to repay them except to honor their everyday work.”

Eleven days after Richard stepped out of his chair, his gift of gratitude arrived in Austell.

“It just shook me to the core of my soul," Lewis said, "and it’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”

“This is just the beginning," said Pellegrino. “We don’t have to wait for a crisis like this to help each other.”

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.

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