A Grapevine man who fought COVID-19 in the hospital for 114 days stopped to vote on his way home Tuesday and celebrated by doing a shot of bourbon.
Billy Szendrey, 64, was admitted to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Grapevine, Texas, on March 22 and tested positive for coronavirus.
After eight weeks on a ventilator and weeks more of rehabilitation, hospital staffers lined the hallways and cheered as Szendrey was escorted out the door to a waiting car.
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"Being out in the sunshine was an exhilarating experience,” he said. “I’m doing great."
Szendrey, a dispatcher for American Airlines, was one of the first to be diagnosed with coronavirus in North Texas.
"They say I was the sickest person to survive the COVID in Tarrant County,” he said.
Early on, as his condition worsened, his family fought to get him a plasma transfusion.
"The reality is every morning I get up and I haven't had a call from the hospital and I thank God he's alive one more day,” his wife Sue said in early April.
His family will never forget.
But he can't remember.
"I don't remember March and April at all,” he said.
But now, he is making new memories.
On the way home, he stopped to vote and showed off an “I Voted” sticker on his mask.
And when he finally got home, he took a shot of his favorite whiskey.
"I'm known to enjoy bourbon,” he said. "Even though it was still before noon, I'm not ashamed to say that I had a drink when I came home this morning."
He's come so far after weeks in rehabilitation.
After so long on a ventilator, he had to learn to talk again.
He still has trouble walking.
"I still have issues with my ankles,” he said.
And his arm doesn't work.
"I also have issues right now with my right arm. It's kind of useless right now,” he said.
But now, Billy Szendrey is looking forward, not back.
"One of the nurses said it best for me,” he said. “She said, 'God has some plan for me and I need to figure out what that is going forward.' And I certainly intend to try to find out what that is."