OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) – Missouri wife, mother and grandmother come home from the hospital after a 377-day battle with COVID and the effects it took on her body.
Doctors, nurses and family members stood in the lobby of MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital in Overland Park on Thursday, anxiously waiting for Gwen Starkey to come down the elevator.
With handmade welcome home signs in hand, balloons, and a live stream packed with supporters on standby, every minute feels like eternity.
“I am delighted,” said Starkey’s daughter, Valerie Mills. “Not even a word. My heart sobbed. My blood is pumping all over my body. I don’t think this day will come. It’s here and I can’t wait.”
When the elevator doors opened, the group cheered for the mother who fought to survive. Her family members say that her faith, determination and dedicated medical team at Kindred Hospital Northland Hospital and MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital helped her return home.
As she passed through the lobby, two small arms were outstretched and waiting to hug her. Starkey’s grandson Kai puts his arm around his best friend. They hugged each other tightly. To get to that moment is a long journey.
Starkey’s family members waited by her hospital window as previous regulations barred people from visiting. They celebrated every major milestone including being released from the ventilator and Starkey being transferred from the hospital for rehabilitation.
“He’s the best medicine ever,” Starkey’s daughter, April Shaver, said of her son Kai.
“He is. He doesn’t even know it,” replied Starkey, holding his hand. “He just got my heart.”
Starkey is ready to live life outside of the hospital room. She is ready to enjoy the little things.
“The most important thing is that I have the most loving and best family I could ask for,” Starkey said.
“I’m so happy to have a mom,” said Mills. “You don’t realize what you have until it’s not there.”
Shaver began to wipe away tears as he sat next to his mother and sister.
“It’s a bit bitter in here. Something in the air,” Shaver said.
A sign that reads “We love you” was hung when Starkey was first hospitalized on the window at Shaver’s home. It finally went down. It was replaced with a new sign that read “She’s gone home”.
“This is what I live for, this family,” said Starkey. “I went home to my family. That’s all I want.”
Starkey says her husband has been her rock in her recovery.
She also thanked the medical team for taking care of her before going home for the first time in a very long time.
“I was so ready to go home. You all have been so great to me,” Starkey said. “I could not have asked for better caregivers. Thank you very much.”