How Steve Barlotta recovered from COVID-19 to play again

Success stories
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Steve Barlotta holding a 'I survived COVID-19' T-shirt
Steve Barlotta proudly shows off his COVID-19 survivor T-shirt. The musician was on a ventilator for nearly a month before he was sent to Encompass Health Tinton Falls to rebuild his strength and cognitive abilities.

Steve Barlotta is a New Jersey musician whose COVID-19 battle began on March 31. Admitted to CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, New Jersey, Steve was in the intensive care unit for 37 days, with 26 of those being on a ventilator.

As Barlotta fought to recover, his goal of returning to play saxophone with his longtime musical group the Sensational Soul Cruisers was diminishing. Barlotta’s physical strength was limited to the movement of only his right thumb. Thanks to the dedicated around the clock care by the staff at CentraState, Barlotta’s medical condition continued to improve, and he soon was stable enough to be discharged to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Tinton Falls to begin physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Barlotta’s road to recovery continued to progress with the hope of walking out of rehabilitation, unassisted, into the arms of his family he hadn’t been able to physically see in over four months. While in therapy, Barlotta not only was driven to achieve his own goals, but aspired to help other COVID-19 patients with their recoveries by offering considerable insight during the emotional support group meetings held virtually at Encompass Health Tinton Falls. 

As his strength and mobility improved, Barlotta vividly saw the image of his saxophone raised high in the air, blaring out as he played for enthusiastic crowds once again throughout the Jersey Shore.

“The professional healthcare providers at every level believed in me and helped me find my inner strength to overcome this dreadful disease,” Barlotta said.

They say the saxophone is one of the most vocal sounding instruments in all of music, and that certainly is a representation of Barlotta’s personality. On June 20, Barlotta reached one of his goals.

The entertainer in him could not stay silent for long, as he displayed his musical abilities to the therapy team that so vigorously helped him achieve his triumphant return to the stage.

“Listening to him play brought tears to everyone’s eyes,” said David Halbert, physical therapist. “Steve battled long and hard, and to see someone truly achieve a desired goal is fantastic, very motivating and rewarding to everyone in our hospital.”

Barlotta continued to progress in therapy and completed his journey at Encompass Health Tinton Falls on July 6, when he fulfilled his other goal— walking out of the building and into the arms of his family.

He returned home and continues to receive outpatient therapy, but he is well on his way to recovering and bringing joy to crowds throughout New Jersey with the sounds of his saxophone and the soulful sounds from his bandmates.

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