LYNCHBURG, Ohio — After nearly 150 days of hospitalization, Molly Chapol returned home Saturday with a police and fire escort behind her pink Thunderbird.
The main drag of Lynchburg — population under 2,000 at last census — was lined with supporters clapping, cheering and waving homemade signs: WELCOME HOME MOLLY. ABOUT TIME YOU CAME HOME.
"It feels really good that she finally beat all those expectations of her not making it,” said Alan West, who held his own hand-drawn WELCOME HOME sign. “Here she is home, and it's wonderful that so many people came out to support her and show that they've been supporting her."
Chapol caught COVID-19 over the winter and soon learned she had also developed pneumonia as a result of her infection. Although Chapol is in her 20s, a demographic that rarely experiences life-threatening complications from COVID-19 infection, her case was dire.
"I didn't really feel like I would make it to this day, and here I am," she said Saturday as her daughter sat on her lap. "It's so surreal."
She was hospitalized at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in January. According to her family, her condition grew so serious that she was placed on an ECMO – similar to a heart-lung bypass machine – for 50 days.
Her town prayed for her during her months-long hospitalization, Chapol said. So did strangers who learned about her story online.
"They told my mom if I did survive that I would be on a vent in a facility for the rest of my life," she said. "And my mom said, 'Then we pray harder, because you don't know my God.'"
Family members said they credited her recovery to these prayers and the staff at UC Health.
To Makayla Fittro, one of the Lynchburgians who lined Main Street to welcome Chapol back, the story illustrated the strength of her village community.
"I think we saw proof that it doesn't matter really how small the town is — we know how to come together for something so big,” she said.
"People would bring food, take care of my kids, watch my kids, be there for comfort for my family," she said. "Incredible. Truly blessed to be from this small town."