PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - When Rita Blackburn was admitted into the hospital in November, she had no idea her COVID-19 diagnosis would lead to a 46-day stay at Pikeville Medical Center.
Blackburn, 67, spent more than one week in the ICU, relying on a ventilator for most of that time. She then spent the subsequent days continuing to fight the virus.
“The death was there. It was there. I mean, every day we expected a call,” said her sister Janet Burnette.
Family members said Blackburn is no stranger to the hospital, having spent seven months in a facility in Louisville for previous health conditions.
“This makes the second really, really close to death experience for her,” said her husband George. “And she fought through ‘em. And I think, you know, I just believe that all the prayers were answered.”
After missing Christmas with her family and celebrating her birthday with an IV in her arm, Blackburn said she continued to push herself through, with the help of the medical team at PMC and the prayers of the people who love her. On Tuesday she was able to return home, welcomed by a line of family members cheering and holding signs for their “hero.”
”I said, they ain’t but one way out. And I looked up above and said, ‘Help me Lord.’ And He said, ‘You get to stay here and be my servant.’ So, here I am,” said Blackburn. “Here I am. Look, I’m going down this hill to my house. I get another chance to live again.”
Blackburn said she is blessed to have a family full of supporters by her side every step of the way.
“I can’t tell you how it feels. ‘Cause I’ve cried too many tears and prayed too much. I cried every night. And I’ve prayed,” said Burnette. “It’s like I can’t believe it’s happening. And a lot of people can’t believe it’s happening. That’s why we’re celebrating.”
After kicking COVID-19, Blackburn’s family said she has earned the nickname “Cat Woman.”
“They said I had nine lives and I’ve got seven more to go,” Blackburn said. “I don’t give up. I’m a fighter. If you don’t fight, you ain’t gettin’ out.”
The family hopes her story will prove that COVID-19 is real, but so are hope and recovery.
“I guess it makes you appreciate life and it also makes you appreciate prayer,” said George. “A lot of people don’t make it through COVID. And it’s real. And it’s a terrible disease.”
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