ORLANDO, Fla. - With their faces covered in masks, countless doctors, nurses and staff from Orlando Health lined that path cheering as Michael Kevin Rathel was rolled out of Orlando Regional Medical Center in a wheelchair and out to his wife’s car.
A few miles away, a similar scene played out as dozens of neighbors, family members and friends lined the street leading up to the Rathel’s house holding balloons and signs that said: "welcome home".
The crowd watched from a distance as Kevin slowly climbed out of the SUV and slowly walked down his driveway to talk to reporters from a distance.
“How are you doing?” FOX 35 News reporter Holly Bristow asked.
“Tired,” Kevin replied.
“What do you think about all this?” Bristow asked, referencing the fanfare.
“It’s crazy. And exhausting,” Kevin said. “I’m already a little out of breath.”
Kevin is recovering from COVID-19.
On April 4, doctors put him on a ventilator and into a medically-induced coma.
“I was 20 percent chance left and I was a goner,” Kevin said.
His wife, Stacie, had read about convalescent plasma helping severely ill COVID-19 patients in other parts of the county.
She begged doctors to try it on her husband and she took to Facebook to help find a donor.
By the morning of April 8, the donor, who shares a mutual Facebook friend with the family, was donating plasma.
That night, Kevin received it.
Those antibodies started working their magic.
Easter Sunday, Kevin started waking up from the medically-induced coma.
“I remember my doctor, she was holding my eyes open,” Kevin said.
His family shared a Facetime video.
Kevin’s wife could be heard telling him it was Easter and had been asleep for a week and it was time to wake up.
Kevin can be seen on the other end with tears coming out of his eyes.
“It was not a coincidence,” Kevin said about waking up on Easter. “And to be honest with you, I could actually hear people, knowing not where I was. I could hear people praying for me while I was in the coma. Every second. Every minute. Every day, every hour I heard prayers,” saying he could hear people speaking in accents from across the world.
Some of those prayers came from James Crocker, Kevin’s plasma donor.
Kevin unrolled the car window steps from his driveway so he could fist bump James Crocker on his way home.
The two officially met for the first time moments later.
“To be a part of saving somebody’s life is a rare privilege for a human being to experience,” Crocker said.
Kevin made it very clear how grateful he is to be alive and thankful to be home.
Now, he’s making it his mission to help other COVID-19 patients.
“There’s five more people up there in the ICU that are fighting for their lives. We need donors, people to answer the call,” Kevin said.
He’s encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to reach out to OneBlood and see how they can donate plasma.