The part of facing this end-of-life choice he didn’t expect was being alone.

“The 26 days of isolation was tough,” Wilburn said. “I had always envisioned that when I passed, someone I loved would be around, not being alone for weeks. I appreciate all those people still going through it. It is a horrendous situation.”

Wilburn wasn’t completely alone. He had a medical team around him, and his wife in constant communication with them about his health decisions. He went back on the respirator and fought for nine days.

On Nov. 11, his heart flatlined. He was revived, and the hospital allowed his wife, son, daughter and longtime friend a visit. They assumed he was about to die.

“But he didn’t,” said Shannon Wilburn. “Thank you, Lord. He stayed in the stepdown ICU for 16 days then to rehab for six.”

Forty-eight days after being admitted, Mitch Wilburn finally went home. But not before another surprise.

Just after Thanksgiving, the family gathered in a lobby of Saint Francis to share pizza, the only spot they could get together. After everyone left, his son and daughter-in-law held back, telling the Wilburns they had an early Christmas gift.

Inside the box, Mitch Wilburn found an ornament of ceramic baby booties, meaning he was going to be a grandfather for the first time. His granddaughter is expected in July.

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