ASHEVILLE, North Carolina -- The pandemic has tested North Carolina mountain healthcare workers to the limit. For all the losses, the victories against the virus means everything.
"We look for these victories. And that moment was really a good moment to watch her walk out the door," said Colleen Travers, a registered nurse in Mission's pediatric ICU.
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This will go down as the summer that teenager Savannah Brigman of Clyde would mostly rather forget.
"She loves calendars and she cannot figure out where the month of June went. She slept," Savannah's dad Sandy told WLOS.
Savannah was intubated and sedated for that entire month. But last week, she uplifted everyone when she left Mission Hospital after 96 days.
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"I feel stronger every day," said Savannah.
"Stronger every day!" her father repeated.
It's now hard to believe that Savannah, who has Down syndrome, spent two weeks on a ventilator.
"When they put her down on the 23rd of May, we didn't know if she would wake up, we didn't know!" Sandy recalled. "I mean there was just so many unknowns with this COVID."
"She pulled her little mask down and said, 'Daddy will you pray with me?'" Sandy said, describing a poignant moment in the ICU. "And we prayed and that whole room got quiet, and we prayed. And I kissed my girl on the forehead and I told her I'd be the first face she seen when she woke up."
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Over the course of three months, the Mission staff saw more and more glimpses of her personality and resolve.
"She's pretty miraculous. She's relentless," Travers says. "She really showed us what it was like to push through, when we weren't sure how well she would do rehabbing and all that after being so sick for so long."
Since July 9, the number of COVID-19 patients at Mission has gone from seven to 150. So seeing Savannah leave just in time for her 18th birthday was a morale boost for many.
"That felt like a big victory for our staff. There's a lot that we do that can be wonderful and that have great outcomes and there's some that's not in the pediatric ICU," said Travers.
The Brigman family is thrilled to be home together.
"We all work together. And God made us that way, we're just a unit," Sandy says.
North Carolina teen hospitalized with COVID-19 released after 96 days
Savannah was intubated and sedated all of June. But last week, she uplifted everyone when she left Mission Hospital after 96 days.
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