PLANO, Texas - A Plano man is grateful to be home for the holidays. He spent nearly 200 days in the hospital battling a case of severe COVID-19.
Last Christmas, Josh Welch watched his children open Christmas gifts via Facetime.
Now as he continues his recovery, he’s looking at life differently.
"Every day I feel a little bit better," he said.
Little by little at home in Plano, Josh is getting back to himself.
"Feel very good. It’s amazing where I’ve come from to where I’m at today," he said.
He’s out of his wheelchair and off oxygen for the most part.
Doctors will be monitoring his blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels through the spring.
"The fact that I was down as long as I was and I’m here today able to talk and move and drive and able to function, I know a lot of people didn’t have the same outcome," he said.
In July 2021, Josh ended up in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 and pneumonia.
He spent 197 days in the hospital, 86 of those on ECMO, a life support machine that takes control of the heart and lungs.
"Literally from July 22 I don’t remember anything until early December," he said.
He’s been reading about that time through his wife, Emily’s, detailed online journal.
"To see how sick I really was, I almost take it for granted today. To read what she’s posted, what friends have posted, what my kids and family have been through. The fact that I’m sitting here today is amazing," Josh said.
Doctors released him in February in the middle of a winter storm.
"She was like, ‘I’m not going to come get you in the ice.’ I was like, ‘You gotta come today,’" he said. "Had about 20 neighbors at the end of the street in the ice when we came down the hill. To come back into my home was an amazing feeling. Felt really good to be back."
The support from his neighbors and even strangers continues.
"We’ve been out at restaurants and people will walk up like, ‘Sorry to interrupt but I know who you are. I know your story. We’ve been praying for you.’ It’s very inspiring. I’ve had some emotional moments in public with people I don’t even know," Josh said.
This Christmas, the best gift he’ll receive is the gift of time.
"I kind of threw my schedules out. I just had to live each day to its fullest," Emily said.
"Last Thanksgiving, I was lying in a bed not able to walk, not able to eat. Had family Thanksgiving this year. It’s amazing," Josh said.
Emily still wears the same "Josh Strong" bracelet she was wearing in March. Now Josh has one too.
"It just reminds me of how lucky I am to be here," he said.
Josh works as a regional sales manager for an industrial moving company. Currently, he works about eight hours a week and hopes to be back full-time in January.