KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — A “Ventilator Liberation” certificate is much more than a piece of a paper to a Missouri family. The certificate signifies an important milestone for a mother who has fought to overcome COVID-19 and the toll it took on her body.
Gwen Starkey’s daughters say Starkey has spent more than 300 days on a ventilator during a long battle to return home.
KCTV5 News first introduced viewers to the family back in July of last year as they visited Starkey’s hospital window. Back then, they were hopeful Starkey would be home for Christmas.
When that could not happen, they brought Christmas to her. They cooked a Christmas dinner and played her favorite Christmas movie on a cell phone.
“Every opportunity we get to make things like they would be at home, we do that for her and she loves that,” daughter April Shaver said. “She had a 60th birthday. We were up there. We had a birthday parade.”
Shaver says their stepfather Troy stayed by their mother’s side.
“Snowstorms, rain, through sickness, he has been there because he loves our mother,” Shaver said. “We want him to know we appreciate him. We love him.”
On Thursday, they looked over more than 200 Christmas cards sent from strangers through the Angel Card Project to lift their spirits.
One card said, “We are praying for healing and strength for your best friend, your grandma.” The card was sent to Shaver’s three-year-old son Kai.
“There’s a lot of people praying for us,” Shaver said.
The family says they’ve tried to focus on staying positive despite obstacles.
“We have to keep her happy. Motivated. That was the biggest thing motivation,” daughter Valerie Mills said. “Me being able to give her very first bite of real food. That was a big thing.”
On New Year’s Eve, another big thing happened. Starkey received a “Ventilator Liberation” certificate. It signified hope.
“It’s really big news,” Mills said. “Excitement. Just pure excitement. Like is this, is this really happening?”
Family members are still waiting for official word. Starkey could be moved to a rehabilitation facility as early as Friday.
“To see what my mom has gone through, beaten, and survived and is doing as well as she is, it’s a miracle,” Shaver said. “It is. It can’t be anything but a miracle.”
A “We Love You Grandma” sign that went up when Starkey was first hospitalized won’t come down until she comes home.
“When she comes home, 2021 did not exist. We’re erasing the year off the calendar,” Shaver said. “It didn’t happen and we’re just going to do all the things that we missed out on. All the birthdays, the parties, the holidays, the celebrations. We get a do-over. It’s incredible that we get to do all this stuff again with our mother, with grandma.”