By Natasha Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A robust round of applause and heartfelt cheers for Sgt. Antonio Ellis. Ellis, a Manchester Township Police Officer, was among the most severe COVID-19 cases in New Jersey at the beginning of the health pandemic.

He returned to Cooper University Hospital with his wife to do something he wasn’t able to do when he left in May of 2020 — say thank you.

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“Although I spent almost 45 days here at Cooper, most of it I spent in a coma, which means I didn’t have a chance to thank a lot of you when I left,” Ellis said.

The road to recovery has not been easy. It’s been a slow trek back to health and a sense of normalcy with doctors outlining just how sick Ellis had been during his lengthy stay at the hospital.

“It would be easy to focus on Sgt. Ellis’ 44 days here at Cooper, 37 of them attached to a ventilator, 16 of them requiring ECOM support, countless weeks. He spent nearly 91 days he spent away from his family,” a doctor said, “I’d rather not focus on illness. Today, we celebrate recovery.”

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Flanked by doctor’s nurses and critical care team members, Ellis knows he’s one of the lucky COVID survivors. This staff is still in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, continuing to try to save lives every day.

Ellis has resumed his life on the police force. He’s been promoted to lieutenant. Now, appreciating life, in a whole new way.

This Thanksgiving holiday he will be giving thanks, with a deeper sense of gratitude to all who made this day possible.

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“Please keep healthy. Enjoy the holidays,” Ellis said.