’I’m here looking around. I can’t find you’: Desperate text from friend of coronavirus victim, a retired cop who left hospital in a delirium, dropped dead on Manhattan street
Retired NYPD Sgt. Yon Chang
Retired NYPD Sgt. Yon Chang, after keeping the streets of the city safe for 26 years, died alone on one of them.
The ex-cop was stricken with COVID-19 and hallucinating when his friend found him collapsed on the sidewalk outside Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East side around 2 a.m. April 7, fighting a 105-degree fever and rambling that Nazis were in the emergency room.
The friend, Dr. Marvin Moy, said he came looking for Chang after getting a series of troubled texts from his pal of two decades.
Chang had signed himself out of the hospital hours earlier against the advice of physicians, according to Moy and texts between the two friends seen by the Daily News.
When Moy found his deranged pal, sick with feverish visions, he immediately tried to bring Chang back into Lenox Hill Hospital to grab a wheelchair.
But as the two men reached the emergency room entrance, Chang fell to the floor — and a hospital administrator and a city cop working security refused the dying man re-admission, Moy charges.
Lenox Hill denied the story as told by Moy, insisting that Chang fought against re-admittance and noting that he ignored the advice of doctors to remain hospitalized.
Chang, just 56 years old, was dead before the sun rose — his lifeless body found on a nearby traffic island.
The terrifying tale of the sergeant’s final hours offers a grotesque example of the thin line between living and dying during the pandemic, where an overworked health care system struggles to keep up with an endless influx of desperately ill patients.
The city’s coronavirus death toll approached 10,000 this week, with more than 35,000 victims hospitalized.
Chang was among their ranks. He joined the NYPD on Feb. 2, 1994, and worked out of the 110th Precinct in Queens. By the time he retired in December 2010 he was working in the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct. The sergeant was single with no kids and lived alone in Queens.
The shocking final chapter of Chang’s life began days before his death when the until-then “perfectly healthy” retiree checked himself into Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens with COVID-19 symptoms, according to Moy.
But the hospital lacked a bed for the ailing Chang, and he was soon transferred by ambulance to Lenox Hill, Moy says. In a series of text messages to Moy just hours before he died, Chang acknowledged signing himself out of Lenox Hill “A.M.A.” — against medical advice.
“I’m cry low energy,” read a 1:30 a.m message from Chang on April 7. “In the door stoop e. 77th and park.”
Moy’s response was terse: “You better get back into a hospital. You’re going to crash and die ... I’m coming over."
The doctor, who lives near the hospital, donned his protective gear and rushed to the scene with an electronic thermometer that confirmed his friend’s spiking fever. Chang was collapsed on the sidewalk, rambling about the “Nazis, ghosts and goblins” inside the Lenox Hill ER.
“The man was clearly not in his right mind,” recalled Moy. “He was obviously highly infectious ... The man had hours to live.”
Moy asked Chang if he needed anything. The ailing ex-cop said he was thirsty and Moy drove off to a supermarket he knew was open to get his friend snacks and drinks.
By the time he returned, Chang was gone. The doctor started texting his missing friend about 2:30 a.m.
“Yon ... where’d you disappear to?” he texted. “I’m back with a red bull food and more drinks. Yon. I need you to muster all your energy and respond back to me.”
“I went home. The next morning I heard on the news they had found a body. My heart sank" Moy said.
The cop’s body was found shortly after 6 a.m. on the traffic island at E. 77th St and Park Ave. by hospital staffers on their way to work.
Moy wanted to send a message to his friend’s mourning mother and siblings.
“I want his family to know ... someone was there.”