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COVID-19 survivor goes home after 101 days in hospital

Rusty Browning, 63, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March.

KENMORE, N.Y. — A Western New York man is spending his first night in months at home with his family after surviving COVID-19.

"We had a lot of ups and downs and he's strong. He pulled through it,” says Dolores Browning.

Rusty Browning is a master electrician, owns his own business, and at 63 leads a very active lifestyle. One day in March, he started feeling sick. Browning was rushed to Mercy Hospital, then to the Catholic Health's COVID-19 facility in Cheektowaga where he spent 67 days on a ventilator, before being taken to Kenmore Mercy for rehab.

"The day he went into Mercy, he called us and was like, I feel like I'm dying, and we were all like you're not dying, we're going to get through this together, and two days later, he was on a vent, and we didn't talk to him again for 68 days," explained Dusty Pruchnicki, Browning's daughter.

The Brownings were doing all the right things, taking all of the safety precautions, especially since Dolores just found out she's in remission from ovarian cancer. No one else in the family got sick, and they've all tested negative for antibodies.

And until Tuesday, they remained physically separated for the most part.

"We do everything together, and I think that's what held him up. He knew family was outside waiting for him," said Dolores.

Rusty had already waited 101 days to leave all of those hospitals, and Tuesday morning, his family had to wait even longer when a fire in an air conditioner delayed his departure. By early afternoon, the Brownings got to do what they've been anticipating for more than three months – see their loved one in person.

He  spent more time on a ventilator and in the ICU at the Cheektowaga hospital than anyone else who has survived there.

"I feel good. I feel good to get home. It's 101 days. Nothing better than to go home," said Rusty. "I'd like to thank the entire staff and crew, the doctors, couldn't ask for anybody better. Greatest people in the world. Got to give them a lot of respect."

For now, he plans to rest at home, and he's looking forward to sleeping in his own bed.

“Then I'll sit outside on the deck, sit by the pool, just watch my grandkids have fun in the water. That's important to me," says Rusty.

"Never give up hope. Miracles can happen," says Dusty Pruchnicki.

"Yes, they can, and he is a miracle today," added Dolores

Rusty will do more rehab at home, and his family wants to thank all of the doctors and nurses who helped him get better - especially the nurses who helped him FaceTime with them when he was in the hospital.

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