A bittersweet end to a 32-day battle

FROM STAFF REPORTS / Editorial

With applause raining down on him from both sides, Mike Waits is rolled to freedom.

After 32 days at Grandview Medical Center battling COVID-19, the Alabaster Fire Inspector finally made it to the light at the end of the tunnel when his wheelchair met the automatic double doors for his first breath of fresh air in more than a month.

But, that fresh air came with a breath of reality as well. That same day, Jan. 29, Waits’ dad, Michael Waits Sr., died from the virus.

Despite the bittersweet day, family made a difference, and not just his immediate family.

As he was rolled past the applause and outside, Waits’ eyes didn’t just see the blue sky in front of him, he saw a family that has been forged over several years in the fire industry.

Members of the Alabaster, Pelham, Birmingham, Hoover, Rocky Ridge, Cahaba Valley and North Shelby fire departments, as well as the Alabaster Police Department, were there waiting for him to give him a hero’s welcome home.

The previous 32 days had been spent hanging on to dear life. Some days better than others, Mike didn’t know what each would bring, and there was the grim possibility that he may not make it through like many others who had spent multiple days in the hospital for the virus before him.

It was a time of uncertainty that he was forced to fight through as a one-man army due to hospital restrictions preventing visits from friends and family.

But he did it. Unlike many others in his position, Mike Waits came out of his lengthy hospital stay alive.

Thanks to his courage and a great team at Grandview Medical Center, he beat the deadly virus.

His recovery will continue at home, carrying an oxygen tank out of the hospital with him, but he won’t be forced to the confines of a hospital, and he’ll now have a new angel watching over him.

As his mom stated, all she and his dad wanted was for Mike to get well and come home. And now that he has, he’s walking among the angels, not only with a watchful eye over Mike, but saying, “That’s my son.”

It’s a moment that should be eye-opening to many of us, showing the possibility of what this deadly virus can do—as if the last 11 months hadn’t already shown you enough.