'Ready to come home:' Milwaukee man hospitalized for 97 days with COVID-19 finally released

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee family is counting its blessings after a grandfather hospitalized for 97 days in his fight against COVID-19 was finally sent home on Tuesday, June 30.

Rick Klimek

Rick Klimek was reluctant to head to the hospital in late March. He thought he only had a case of the flu -- before eventually agreeing to go to Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center.

"I do remember riding in the back of the ambulance and pulling in here, and then I don't remember anything until Cinco de Mayo," Klimek said.

Instead, Klimek had COVID-19. His battle against the virus included a medically-induced coma lasting several weeks.

But with Klimek's family and golfing buddies waiting anxiously outside, his 97th day of treatment ended with celebration. He is headed home healthy and happy.

"I said, well hell, I could've stayed for two more days and could've got to 100, but I was ready to come home. I miss my grandgirls," Klimek said.

It is a long enough hospital stay as-is. But to make matters tougher, the contagious nature of the virus kept his wife Nancy and the rest of the family from seeing him only until recent weeks.

Nancy Klimek

"I can hardly wait just to get him home and just sit and relax and just catch up on things," said Nancy Klimek, Rick's wife.

There is plenty to catch up on now -- including high praise for the men and women that helped him stay alive.

"If it wasn't for the people at St. Luke's, and the doctors and the nurses and everyone else that fought with him, he wouldn't be here today," said Wayne Madro, Rick's friend.

Klimek said the first thing he hopes to do is get a haircut. From there, he said he would like to get back on the golf course with friends around September -- if possible.

A quick note... Aurora officials say Klimek's 97 days is the longest hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient in all of Aurora Health Care -- not just St. Luke's Medical Center.