By Stephanie Stahl

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A story of survival and gratitude for a South Jersey police officer and a near-deadly case of COVID- 19. The police officer is on the road to recovery and hopes his story is a wake-up call for anyone hesitant to get vaccinated.

An emotional reunion at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital as Frank Talarico came back to thank the medical team that saved his life.

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“All of you referring to me as a miracle patient, but I say you are my miracle workers,” he said. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”

The 47-year-old Merchantville police sergeant had COVID-19 in December and was hospitalized twice with serious complications.

“I was knocking on heaven’s door a couple of times,” Talarico said.

He developed a massive blood clot a foot-long in his lungs. Surgery was followed by life support and organ failure.

“His hospital stay was very, very stormy and touch and go,” Dr. Vivek Sailam said. “Everybody that was involved in his case was really, really on edge in terms of if he was going to make it or not.”

Talarico beat the odds and returned to the hospital filled with gratitude for the medical team.

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“They were all just amazing,” Talarico said. “They were truly angels.”

These frontline angels have been living a nightmare. To see a success story like Talarico is beyond gratifying.

“That makes everything we do so rewarding,” one nurse said.

It made everything come full circle to see that for Talarico, who will be headed to Florida to retire. He says he regrets not getting vaccinated.

“I thought it was rushed and it was put out really fast and that’s why I was hesitant on getting it,” he said. “If I was vaccinated, I more than likely wouldn’t have been in the situation I was in.”

Doctors say it’s a message too many hear too late.

“If you do have reservations about the vaccine, take this story as an example, and consider it strongly, you have to consider it,” Sailam said.

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Talarico says he’s come full circle now and plans to get vaccinated when the time is right. From now, he says he will be carefully following advice from doctors.

Stephanie Stahl