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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Chris Tillett says he is still coping with health problems one year after become the first Connecticut resident to be diagnosed with COVID-19, but the experience has brought a new optimism to life.

The former Wilton resident tested positive for COVID-19 on March 8, 2020, and spent three weeks at Danbury Hospital, including 10 days in a coma and on a ventilator. He was 45 at the time, with a wife and 4-month-old twin boys. Doctors used experimental treatments, including anti-malaria and anti-HIV drugs, in efforts to save his life.

He got sick after returning from a professional conference in California.

“This has been a tough year,” Tillett, who now lives in Virginia, told WVIT-TV. “I’m enjoying little aspects of life. Even when things go bad, I just choose to laugh at it now instead of letting it get me angry and upset, and like what is that gonna do for me, right? So I’ve just found, yes, definitely a new lease on life.”

Tillett told Connecticut Public Radio he continues to experience muscle pain, stiffness and swelling in his legs. He also had to begin taking blood pressure medication, and may have to for the rest of his life. He said red spots still cover his feet, a common lingering symptom of the virus.

Exactly one year after Tillett tested positive, more than 285,000 state residents have contracted the virus and more than 7,700 have died. Nationally, nearly 29 million people have become infected and 525,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Those are numbers Tillett says hurts him to see.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “And I unfortunately, I see individuals that they’re like, ‘Well, I had it and it went away and it’s not that big of a deal.’ And my thing is this: It’s not a death sentence to get this, but look at the lasting effects that I have.”

He said he and his family moved to Virginia to be closer to family.

“That was one of the main reasons why I moved here,” Tillett said. “I don’t know what it’s doing to me in the long term.”

He’s not eligible to get a vaccine yet, but plans to when he does qualify.

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