CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Weeks after entering the hospital with serious complications from COVID-19, Kathy Alford left Atrium Health Pineville Rehabilitation Hospital to great fanfare.
As she was wheeled out of the hospital, carrying a sign that read, "I'm a survivor," family, friends, and loved ones cheered. Wearing masks, each came up to greet the nurse of 20 years with hugs and tears of joy.
Even the Pineville Fire Department was there to lead a vehicle parade in her honor.
"It's the best thing," Alford said. "They've been there for me, and my family's been there for me. Without them, I couldn't have gone through this."
After catching COVID-19 in July and coming down with serious symptoms weeks later, Alford faced a major fight in her life. Her hospital stay over the last several weeks included trial drugs, a plasma exchange, and lots of time on a ventilator.
Throughout this battle, the community rallied around Alford. At the end of July, a GoFundMe page aimed at covering her medical expenses set a goal of raising $10,000. On the day of her hospital discharge, people had contributed more than $12,000 to the fund.
"It's definitely been a lot of prayers," she said. "That's what's gotten me through this."
While it is not known how Alford first got ill, loved ones said she was more likely to catch and see complications from the virus. Two years ago, Alford received a kidney transplant, and with a compromised immune system, she was certainly in the high-risk category.
Yet, she was determined to keep on with her frontline work and stay true to her passion for delivering babies.
Now, after weeks of FaceTimes and phone calls, finally, she gets a real face-to-face with those most treasured to her.
She plans to catch up on lost family time.
"I'm looking forward to being with my kids and my family and just getting stronger," Alford said.