"It's good to be home," said Jill Holker.
She was greeted Friday by a cheering crowd of about two dozen family, friends and co-workers on the tarmac of the Spanish Fork Airport.
Holker cared for sick COVID-19 patients at the beginning of the pandemic in the ICU at Utah Valley Hospital and then became a patient herself. She said she was at peak physical fitness before becoming ill.
"It was super weird to all of a sudden, just to be slowly being knocked down," Holker said. "It was Halloween when I couldn't — we were trying to run on Halloween and I was like, 'I can't do it.'"
She was hospitalized in early November 2020 and spent time in two Utah hospitals before traveling to the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville in December for treatment for lung damage.
VIDEO: "It's good to be home!" #ICU nurse Jill Holker as she arrived in #Utah for the 1st time in months— Ladd Egan (@laddegan) April 23, 2021
She went to Florida for a double lung transplant after becoming sick with #COVIDー19
She hugged her family & was greeted by a cheering crowd @KSL5TV@KSLcom@kslnewsradiopic.twitter.com/lngxLo7PO0
Holker received her new lungs on Jan. 20 and was released from the hospital on Feb. 19 but stayed in Florida to recover. Now that she's home she hopes to spend time with family and return to health care.
"I'm one that believes that things happen for a reason," she said. "I'd like to get back to work if I can. I want to get back to normal. I want to get running again."
Being without their mom for so long and watching her suffer had a lasting impact on Holker's three children.
"I think we all have a different outlook on life now," said Tivalee Hansen, Holker's daughter. "Now it's like the little things don't matter."
"We're going to spend a lot more time with her," said daughter Tylee Holker. "We kind of like took her for granted. You just always assume that your mom is going to be there."
Holker's co-workers kept in daily contact with the hospital staff in Florida and also started a GoFundMe* account for Holker.
"From when I saw her as my patient and to all the steps that she's been through, she's a fighter, she's a hero," said fellow ICU nurse Holly Pike after she saw Holker step off the plane in Utah. "She looks so good today."
Jill Holker said she will be paying attention to how her new lungs react to the change in elevation now that she is home in Utah.
"I'm just super grateful for everybody," Jill Holker said. "I just don't know what else to say because words don't even seem like it's enough."
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.