APPLETON, Wis.— Family and hospital staff cheered on a Kaukauna woman as she left the hospital on Friday. It had been 84 days since she was first admitted to Ascension St. Elizabeth in Appleton for COVID-19.

Staff including Dr. Nicholas Freeman lined the halls to say goodbye to Nancy Van Dyn Hoven, who they’ve gotten to know well.

“She’s a local celebrity. I don’t think there’s one person in the entire hospital that doesn’t know Nancy. She’s truly an inspiration and obviously, her determination and willpower has played a massive role in terms of her recovery,” said Freeman.

Amy Barth, an ICU nurse got to know Van Dyn Hoven and her family during her stay.

“We all got to know her well. She for sure has been the light in the tunnel of darkness that we’ve been going through around here. We haven’t had a ton of success stories so she’s our biggest one for sure. On Thanksgiving she told me, I will be home before Christmas and here we are,” said Barth.

Van Dyn Hoven's case was difficult. She had no health issues and was 59 years old when admitted. Dr. Anthony Zeimet, an infection diseases specialist originally thought she’d have a short stay at the hospital.

“She was started on some of the experimental treatment at the time and really just kind of deteriorated while this all happened and eventually got intubated and was on the ventilator for about a month and half or so and eventually got extubated and has had a slow recovery from that,” said Zeimet.

Van Dyn Hoven, nicknamed ‘'Duck'’ was overwhelmed by loved ones wearing ‘'Duck Strong’' shirts on Friday. It’s been a long road for her recovery.

“A lot of the bad stuff I don’t remember and that’s a good thing but eventually I came out of it,” said Van Dyn Hoven.

Her daughter Stacy Arnoldussen and the rest of Van Dyn Hoven's family are happy to finally see her going home.

“I’ve been dreaming… Absolutely dreaming of this day since day one. Whether she had been here for a week or the 84 days that she was here, we could not wait to bring her home and let her reunite with her dog as well,” said Arnoldussen.

“Oh my God, I missed her so bad. I love her to death and it was just amazing to see so many people that showed up. It’s just amazing. I had no clue that there were that many people that cared,” said Van Dyn Hoven.

The family praised the hospital staff for their care, especially when Covid restrictions kept them away from Van Dyn Hoven.

Barth said she’s bonded with Van Dyn Hoven but the staff extends the same type of care to all of their patients. 

“Whatever we can do, Zoom calls, phone calls, reading text messages, singing to Nancy on her 60th birthday. When you can’t have your number one support system, your family here, we have to jump in and not only be the person caring for them but their family too,” said Barth.

Van Dyn Hoven plans on paying the healthcare workers back eventually. 

“They are true heroes. I believe it from the bottom of my heart. They’re the best,” said Van Dyn Hoven.

Nurses would set up Zoom calls with Van Dyn Hoven and her family. Even when she couldn’t communicate, the family kept her involved.

“There was a Packer game and we were loud and we apologized to the staff and they said her respiratory rate actually went down a little bit that night so we knew she could hear us and that just kept us going and gave us hope,” said Arnoldussen.

She’s leaving the hospital now, giving a lot of people hope during a dark time.

“What’s she’s been through has been hell and back and the fact that she’s here able to talk to us and we’re able to hear her voice is truly remarkable,” said Dr. Freeman.

“We have seen a lot of death from COVID. This just helps to know that there are people who can survive even this more severe form of COVID,” said Dr. Zeimet.