Gainesville nurse, mom, COVID-19 survivor Kristin Kay leaves hospital

Bozz District

A woman in a pink face mask and matching hat was rolled out of North Florida Regional Medical Center Monday afternoon. Nurses, doctors, family and friends clapped as she was helped out of the hospital wheelchair and into an ambulance waiting to transport her to the next leg of her […]

A woman in a pink face mask and matching hat was rolled out of North Florida Regional Medical Center Monday afternoon.

Nurses, doctors, family and friends clapped as she was helped out of the hospital wheelchair and into an ambulance waiting to transport her to the next leg of her recovery.

As the doors on the ambulance closed, a smaller figure, her 5-year-old son, waved and cried out, “Goodbye mommy! I love you.”

Kristin Kay, a Gainesville nurse, mother and University of Florida graduate who has been battling severe COVID-19 complications since just after Christmas, was discharged shortly after 2 p.m. Monday from NFRMC and transported to Select Specialty Hospital on the fifth floor of UF Health Shands Hospital.

There, for a week or two, she will complete occupational and physical therapy to prepare her for a rigorous three weeks of rehabilitation at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital on Archer Road, according to her husband, Steven Kay.

Then, she will head home for the first time in 2021.

COVID-19 toll

Kristin Kay was at NFRMC for 111 days and on a ventilator for around 100 of them. For most of January and February, she was heavily sedated and unconscious of her body’s fight.

More:Young nurse, mom battles COVID-19 as family waits

Kay has battled multiple infections, organ failures, heart problems and possible brain damage, according to her doctor, Ahmer Siddiqui. She was NFRMC’s longest patient ever on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO machine, spending 69 days on the technology normally used for a week.

A lung transplant was considered.

Her 5-year-old son, Parker, could not visit her inside the hospital and went months without seeing his mom.

And it was all because she got COVID-19.

Parker Kay, 5, fist bumps Aubrey Hall, the acute care nurse practitioner who was working with Parker's mom, Kristin, who is recovering from severe COVID-19 complications, as Kristin leaves North Florida Regional Medical Center on Monday in Gainesville.

“We knew the odds were against her,” Siddiqui said. “We were fortunate and she was fortunate she was able to overcome those odds.”

Kristin was perfectly healthy in 2020 before she contracted the virus, her husband said. They don’t know how or where she got it, but COVID-19 ravaged the young mother and knowledgeable caregiver.

“That’s the biggest thing, that some people still think you can’t get it,” said Kaley Witenstein, Kay’s sister. “She was 31 and still had this.”

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