LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A hospital parking lot isn’t the typical place for a family reunion, but after 69 days in the hospital, it was the perfect place for the Rael family to gather to celebrate the fact that Wanda Vigil is now going home.
Wanda spent 69 days at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood battling COVID-19 — 42 of them on a ventilator.
“She’s a fighter. We were told 20 days in she probably wasn’t going to make it,” brother Alan Rael said.
Alan and about two dozen family members gathered in the parking lot of St. Anthony’s on Thursday as Wanda was discharged from the hospital.
“It’s a beautiful thing. It’s miraculous,” sister Linda Deborah Sanchez said.
Hospital workers lined the lobby in a socially distanced fashion to clap and cheer as Wanda was wheeled out. Her family was waiting outside with signs and hugs.
“I am so grateful,” Wanda said.
She still has a damaged vocal cord, meaning she can only whisper, and her family acknowledged that she had plenty of recovery still to go.
“She still has a journey ahead of her, but she’s alive,” Sanchez said.
“My heart is so happy. I’m so happy. My family has been there through thick and thin,” Wanda said.
Multiple members of the Rael family were diagnosed with COVID-19, and all recovered. They wanted to send the message that though this day was a happy one, and the vaccine is now being distributed, there are still many people in the hospital fighting the virus.
“It’s a serious thing. My sister almost passed away,” Sanchez said. “I ask you, please wear masks, stay distanced, wear gloves, wash your hands.”
The family says Wanda is most excited to see her grandchildren now that she is out of the hospital and getting to go home — just in time for Christmas.
“She’s my big present under the tree,” her sister said through tears. “She’s going home.”
This story originally reported by Jason Gruenauer on TheDenverChannel.com.