LUTZ, Fla. - A college student from Pasco County is finally home after battling COVID-19 for six weeks.
February 27, Kairee Whitmore, a special education major at Nova Southeastern University, went on a two-week study abroad trip to Ireland. At that time, COVID-19 was not as widespread as it is now.
She got to spend some time in the classrooms there and also got to take in the country's iconic scenery.
"The most memorable sight was the Cliffs of Moher," said Kairee Whitmore. "I truly have never seen anything quite like that."
But on the flight back to Fort Lauderdale, her friend got sick, ending up in the ICU. By March 12, Kairee was sick, too.
"I got a fever and started to feel really fatigued and whatnot," Kairee said. "I didn't really think anything of it until the next morning when I woke up with a dry cough."
Both she and her friend tested positive for COVID-19.
"I was placed on oxygen because my oxygen levels were low," Kairee recalled. "I ended up hospitalized twice for it."
Her mother says the hardest part was feeling so far away.
"I've never had a child in the hospital and not been able to sit with them or comfort them. It's not that way anymore," said Donna Whitmore.
Kairee was given two rounds of azithromycin but she believes the drug hydroxychloroquine made the difference.
"It didn't obviously take all of my symptoms away but it definitely, I feel, it reduced them," Kairee said.
The FDA-approved lupus and malaria drug has been touted by the Trump Administration. Though, some health officials urge caution due to potential negative side-effects.
Kairee's friend, Shira Karp was finally able to fly home to Dallas Tuesday.
"It literally felt like my chest was compacting," Karp recalled as she spoke to a reporter in Dallas. "I was like, I need to get somewhere. I cannot breathe.”
Wednesday morning, when Kairee got her second negative COVID-19 test, she got the all-clear. Finally, after six weeks in the hospital or in isolation, she was free.
"My first thing was to come home, yeah, I'm free," Kairee said, smiling.
Wednesday night, Kairee was surprised with a parade of cars, honks and signs in her Lutz neighborhood. One driver even tossed rolls of toilet paper out of his window.
"It was really nice to actually see their faces, especially, after not seeing very many faces the past 6 weeks," Kairee said. "It was awesome."
She hopes her story reminds everyone to be extra careful take the risks seriously and feels lucky to have made it through.
"It affects young people," Kairee said. "It's not just the older people with underlying conditions. It affects young healthy people."
Having her daughter home, Donna said she feels "Total relief. I think I may actually sleep tonight."