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Longtime music educator James Story celebrates after being released from Sumner Regional Medical Center on May 28. The 65-year-old was hospitalized for more than two months battling COVID-19. JOSH CROSS

After COVID-19 nearly took his life, James Story was finally able to spend time outside and enjoy the sunshine for the first time in more than two months last week.

The retired longtime music educator was released from Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin on May 28 after spending a total of 71 days at three area hospitals battling the virus.

“It was a miraculous healing,” Story told the Gallatin News. “The virus just takes your breathing, and in my case, it affected my internal organs.

“Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong.”

The 65-year-old said he is unsure when or where he contracted the virus. However, he believes it could have happened during one of several trips to Nashville he took prior to being admitted to the hospital on March 19.

While at TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center, Story spent 15 days on a ventilator before being transferred to another facility in Nashville. He was later moved to Sumner Regional Medical Center where he spent three weeks recovering and learning how to walk again before being released May 28.

“I didn’t know that it was going to affect my body like it did,” said Story, who also lost 34 pounds as a result of the illness. “I was just at the brink of death, but I was able to have a group of doctors, nurses, practitioners and therapists that brought me back to life. It took three hospitals to do that.”

Hired by Sumner County Schools in 1977, Story first taught band and chorus in White House. He later moved to Gallatin High School where he taught until he was recruited by Volunteer State Community College in 1997 to help develop their music education and recording industry program. He remained at the college until his retirement in June 2018.

While he described his battle with COVID-19 as being solitary, Story said it was “one of the most spiritual journeys I have been on because I know I was lifted up in prayer by so many people.”

“You have to face this thing by yourself because family and friends were not allowed at the hospital,” he added about the experience. “That’s when the healthcare folks become your family. They sang to me, they told me stories, we prayed tighter and we laughed together.”

Doctors, nurses and therapists lined the hallway outside Story’s room at Sumner Regional Medical Center and cheered him on in celebration of him being released from the hospital last week.

Outside, he was greeted by a group of well-wishers that included former students and Gallatin First United Methodist Church choir members who sang “Oh Happy Day” as he left.

“It was very emotional,” Story said about the reception. “It was just like a surge of energy came upon my body. It was victorious that I had come through. I still have a way to go.”

Now that he is home, Story said he looks forward to being able to return to church as well as writing and doing more musical composition. He plans to continue to do exercises with the hope of no longer needing to use a walker soon.

He also urged others to take the virus seriously and added that “miracles do happen every day.”

“This disease is not a hoax,” Story said. “It is real, and it is life threatening. I look on the TV and 100,000 people are dead because of this dreaded disease. Fortunately, I was not one of them.”

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