BOSTON – Protopresbyter Christos Pappas, presiding priest of the Ascension Greek Orthodox parish in Fairview, New Jersey believes that it is “a miracle” he is alive after his severe infection by the coronavirus.
In a telephone interview, Fr. Christos a very well-liked and popular priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, told The National Herald that “I feel deep in heart that I am alive today because of the prayers of my family, our Archbishop Elpidophoros who was in constant contact with my family, as well as Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, my parishioners and my many friends here in the United States, in Greece, in Europe, on Mount Athos, everywhere.”
The “resurrection” of Fr. Christos happened on the Saturday of Lazarus April 11, after ten days under sedation on a ventilator.
His ordeal began on April 1. “I experienced shortness of breath and high fever. I went to the Holy Name Hospital here in New Jersey where they had the most cases and they gave me those new drugs which they use to treat malaria and Ebola. This virus causes inflammation in the lungs and the doctors told me these drugs proved to be effective. I didn’t have any other choice. In that hospital they had that particular experience and they used those drugs. The doctors told me that they completely stopped [the overreaction] of my immune system in order to be able to stop the virus.”
He added, “I was rushed to the hospital and the doctors told me that if I had delayed a little more things would have been more difficult. I was doing a funeral Service and I felt like I was going to collapse. I had difficulty reading the Holy Gospel and I left immediately to go to the hospital. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
Fr. Christo’s condition was very critical. His doctors told him that he only had a twenty per cent chance of survival. He said “even the doctors were surprised that I lived. I was at a very critical stage, and my case was extremely difficult. When I woke up on Saturday of Lazarus I was feeling very week. I couldn’t walk and had to use a cane.”
He went home on the holiest day of the year, the day of Pascha. He said “now, thank God, I feel much better. The doctors told me to stay home for fifteen days to fully recover and then I believe I can go to church.”
The most painful thing for Fr. Christo was the fact that he couldn’t do the services during Holy Week. He said “I am a priest for almost 29 years and it was very difficult for me not to be able to do the sacred services of Holy Week,” and it took a lot out of him.
He doesn’t know where, how, and under what circumstances he was infected. “I have no way of knowing how and where. I use to go out to the supermarket but I was taking every precaution. I had a small bottle of alcohol with me and I was washing my hands. I was in good health, I didn’t have any preexisting condition, I have never smoked cigarettes, and I never had any respiratory problems.”
He also said that “it is a very sneaky illness – it reacts differently to different people. My wife and children weren’t infected and we live under the same roof.”
Fr. Christos is well on his way to complete recovery. He said, “I can eat everything, but I feel some weakness when I go up the stairs. The doctors told me that it will take some time, because the virus weakens the human body.”
He has received many hundreds of good wishes and messages from his parishioners, from fellow priests, from friends from the Greek-American Community, from Greece, Europe, and many other places.
“I would like to thank them all from my heart,” he said.