LEXINGTON, Ky. — After more than a month apart, Gene Hornback and his wife Elaine of Versailles, were reunited Friday at Baptist Health Lexington when Gene, a COVID-19 patient, was discharged.
One of the last times they had been together was on March 30 when the couple, who will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Sept. 16, arrived in the same ambulance at the emergency room.
They were suffering from flu-like symptoms and both tested positive for COVID-19. Gene was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, where he was placed on a ventilator for more than three weeks. Elaine, whose case was milder, was admitted four floors above him.
“The thing that gets you the worst is the weakness,” said Elaine. “It’s just like someone sticks a syringe in you and takes every bit of strength out of you. Like nothing I’ve ever felt in all of my life.”
Separated by four floors, Elaine said that she could still feel her husband’s presence close by. During this time, she formed a special bond with Dr. David Dougherty, the infectious disease physician treating Gene. Dougherty would travel the four floors to her room every day of her stay to update her on Gene’s condition, and when the physician had a rare day off, one of his partners took his place.
On April 25, Elaine was discharged from and moved to Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center to recover, leaving her husband behind.
The team of dedicated doctors, nurses and therapists continued to treat Gene, who began to show signs of recovery. “Mr. Hornback is a perfect example of a COVID-19 miracle,” said Jenna, one of the nurses on his unit. “He had all the odds against him and still beat the virus. He is a reminder of why I became a nurse and he will forever have a place in my heart.”
“I’m proud of them,” Gene said of the team who cared for him. “They did a wonderful job. Prayers for them.”
Dougherty, the physician who treated Gene, has seen the consequences of COVID-19. And as Kentucky looks forward to reopening the economy he hopes that people will remember to take precautions. “Masking in public places is extremely important,” he said. “And we need to maintain good hand hygiene. It’s especially important that we continue to protect the most vulnerable population.”
During their decades together the Hornbacks have lived a wonderful life, raising three children, and welcoming seven grandchildren.
“We’re avid UK fans,” Elaine said. “We have football tickets and basketball tickets. We like to travel, we love to be active with our family and grandchildren and attend their activities.”
Elaine, who is back at home now, said that she is getting stronger every day and looks forward to the day that her husband can be with her.
“She has a new purpose in life,” Dawn Hornback Mullican said of her mother. “They’re both looking at it like they’ve had the greatest gift given to them, which is more time together.”