'Country roads' lead Dr. Steve home after he spent more than a month fighting COVID-19

After battling COVID-19 for 49 days, a longtime pediatrician and Navy veteran Steve "Dr. Steve" Hefler was safely discharged from Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Friday.

SMH employees helped him celebrate the major milestone by cheering and serenading him with his favorite song, John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads,” as he left the Rehabilitation Pavilion to be reunited with his wife. 


Hefler was admitted to SMH on March 28 and spent 25 days fighting for his life in Sarasota Memorial’s COVID-19 critical care unit. The staff sang the John Denver song to Hefler as he lay in a coma because they knew it was his favorite song.

He was transferred from ICU to a step-down respiratory care unit on April 23, and then to the hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation unit on May 1, where he spent the last two weeks regaining his strength and mobility. 


When he entered the hospital, Hefler didn’t have his phone charger, and once his phone battery died, it was difficult for his family to communicate with him.

RELATED Family donates phone chargers to hospitals after phone call helped loved one battling COVID-19

A nurse lent Hefler her phone charger and that led his family to raise money to donate phone chargers to hospitals nationwide. 

The Hefler family has set up a GoFundMe campaign for the phone charger project to ensure families can always communicate with their loved ones in quarantine.