AUSTIN, Texas — Cheers filled the front entrance of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Center in Round Rock on Friday.
The Austin Police Association, joined by officers from Temple Police Department and others, spent Friday afternoon celebrating Cpl. Elijah Neely, an Austin Police Department officer who has been hospitalized since February recovering from COVID-19.
His wife, Shawana Neely, spoke with KVUE on Friday ahead of his release.
She said they both got sick with COVID-19 in February. Then the winter storms hit, knocking out their power and forcing them to sleep in their cars with their daughter and dogs.
After eventually going to stay with friends in Temple, Shawana said Elijah's condition only got worse. He ended up in the ER before getting transferred to the COVID-19 ICU unit where he was put in a medically induced coma.
"There were times when they didn't think he would make it. There were times when they would call me and say, 'You know, we think you should come say your goodbyes,'" Shawana remembered. "But every time that I went to [Baylor Scott and White], I didn't go to say goodbye. I went to pray with him. I went to encourage him."
The support didn't stop with his wife, who is also a police officer but in Temple.
"I cannot even tell you how much support they have shown us. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten phone calls and text messages from people I've never met before. Just to say, 'We are praying for you, sister. We're with you. Elijah was our brother, and we'll continue. If you believe, we believe,'" said Shawana.
Police officers, hospital workers, friends and family surrounded Elijah as he was wheeled out of the facility and into his car.
"I never lost faith. We knew this moment was coming, and we've just been waiting on it," said Shawana. "And now that it's here, we're just so super excited. I just can't wait to get him home. I'm just looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him."
Shawana said she expects her husband to make a full recovery.
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