KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV/KSMO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has brought loss and pain to family after family. For one Kansas family, it first took Roger Collins away from them. Then it shattered their family owned business.
Roger Collins was flown to the hospital via LifeFlight on July 13 after testing positive for COVID-19. He has not been home since. “He hollered help me I can’t breathe,” Billie Collins said about the night their lives changed. As she helped him put on his shoes, she said it was clear he knew he was very ill. “He leaned over, and he said, ‘hug me because I don’t know when you’re going to hug me again.’ Billie Collins said. “He hasn’t hugged me since that day.”
For nearly seven months, his wife has visited his window to encourage him to keep fighting to come back home. On Super Bowl Sunday, she did not watch her beloved Chiefs from the comfort of a warm home. Instead she cheered outside in the arctic air with a portable heater to be able to share the moment with her husband. She also cheered near his Kansas City, KS hospital window for the AFC Championship game to watch the Chiefs defeat the Bills.
On Roger’s hospital window there are lots of love notes inscribed on the glass. For months, glass has separated the couple. Billie brings a two-person tent day after day to visit with Roger no matter what the weather brings. “He’s the love of my life and I know I’m the love of his life. That sounds conceited but you know in 32 years you hear that over and over and over and you truly, I truly believe that,” Billie Collins said. “How do I know he doesn’t need somebody? So, I need to be there.”
From the moment Roger was flown to the hospital, the family knew this was going to be painful journey. Still day after day Billie, their children and grandchildren visit Roger. “My granddaughter comes. They sit her up on the window and she draws pictures to him, and they have blowing kisses and wars,” Billie Collins said. “As much as I think he’s fighting for me, he’s fighting to be a dad and a grandpa.”
The family fought to keep Roger’s family owned business afloat while he was on a ventilator in the hospital. Roger’s mother started the business 55 years ago. It broke the family’s hearts when they couldn’t keep it running without Roger. They closed the doors on Central Publishing Co. in Iola, KS in October. “This really has tested a lot. People don’t realize the mental and the emotional toll this takes,” Billie Collins said. “Not just on people on the outside but those people like Roger who really did take care of his family and always pushed us to be better.”
Billie is hopeful that reconstructive surgery to remove scar tissue from Roger’s damaged trachea will help Roger move to a rehabilitation facility. Making him hopefully one step closer to one day coming home. As they wait by the window, the family has adopted a new motto, “Collins Ain’t Quitters”
“He has so many people in his corner that are praying,” Billie Collins said. The family will continue to bring encouragement to Roger until he can come home to them.
“When he gets out of there, I’m going to give him a new wedding ring because I have his right now. They had to take it off,” Billie Collins said. “One day I will put it back.”
Family and friends have started an online fundraiser to help the Collins family during Roger’s road to recovery.
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