TAMPA — Sonya Bryson-Kirksey wasn’t sure if she’d make it to opening night while lying in a hospital bed, battling COVID-19 pneumonia.
For nearly a month, she focused on her recovery one day at a time to get back to her family and friends.
Now she’s making her way back to her corner spot on the ice to sing the U.S. national anthem ahead of Tuesday’s season opener against the Penguins.
“There is so much going through my brain,” Bryson-Kirksey, 54 of Riverview, said Monday. “Just the overall happiness of being here … the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the ice, the players — just all of that, just everything kind of mushed into one and how it makes it seem like I’ve been away for years, but you don’t believe how that one month can make a difference.”
Battling multiple sclerosis and other underlying health issues, Bryson-Kirksey always was careful of her whereabouts.
But after she celebrated the Lightning’s second straight Stanley Cup championship in mid July with other fans at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa, Bryson-Kirksey was hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia.
“People who don’t get vaccinated are the carriers of these variants and they never even know,” Bryson-Kirksey, who was fully vaccinated in March, said at the time. “They need to know COVID pneumonia is not your sister’s home-bound mild case. My life has been on the line here since I arrived last Friday with a 103(-degree) fever.”
After 29 days in the hospital, which included a week in the intensive care unit, Bryson-Kirksey was released on Aug. 4 to a flood of text messages, phone calls, cards and care packages.
Upon arriving home, Bryson-Kirksey reached out on social media to Lightning fans and others who supported her during her time in the hospital.
“Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for every prayer, cards, food, letters, positive thoughts, well wishes and donations,” she wrote. “My husband & I are grateful for every gift of love and for checking on he and I, while I was in the hospital.”
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