SHELBY -- It was a homecoming fit for a queen.
After 53 days in the hospital, a double-leg amputation below the knee and the loss of her fingertips, 17-year-old Lindsey Gies was finally able to return home on Friday having won her battle with a life-threatening infection. And the Shelby community was there to welcome her with open arms.
Shortly after 2 p.m. on Feb. 1, people started lining Main Street in Shelby in anticipation for the Shelby High School homecoming queen. Yellow ribbons were tied around street signs - Lindsey's favorite color. Adults and children carried signs declaring "Love for Lindsey." The sun even came out for the occasion.
Wow. I really have no words. Thank you Shelby, I’m so proud to have grown up in this wonderful community. It feels so good to be home!💛 pic.twitter.com/JNnL3B6Dtj— lindsey (@Lindsey_gies) February 1, 2019
The small-town show of affection was premeditated, led by a coalition of Lindsey's teachers, classmates, friends and family.
"When Lindsey is released from the hospital, we will line the streets of Shelby ... wearing t-shirts in her favorite color along with yellow ribbons place proudly in front of homes and businesses," said Jackie Duncan, a teacher at Shelby High School, in an email a week prior.
"We plan to line the streets that day, no matter what the weather, and welcome her home where she is surrounded by love and support."
The wail of Shelby Police cruiser sirens escorting the Gies family down Main Street signaled Lindsey's arrival. A maroon Nissan driven by her father, Shelby High School Principal John Gies, carried Lindsey and her family through Shelby as they soaked in a community's love.
Sitting in the passenger seat, a toothy smile spreading across her face, the fatigue of Lindsey's lengthy medical battle was nowhere to be seen.
The caravan made two passes down Main Street before finally - finally - heading home.
It was a long time coming.
In the beginning of December, Lindsey was admitted to OhioHealth Riverside Hospital for an infection, according to an online journal written by John Gies on CaringBridge.org. The infection was so severe she was placed on a ventilator, which she was weaned off of approximately a week later.
"Lindsey has had a good day after a rough night," John Gies wrote on Dec. 14. "She has some new meds that have helped her heart rate and blood pressure. She is also on dialysis to help remove excess fluid that was making it hard for her to breathe. She is on a ventilator to help her breathe as well.
"She is still very sick and things could change quickly," he said. "We like how the day has gone so far. This is going to take some time to fully recover."
In the midst of fighting for Lindsey's life, she was placed on a medication meant to increase her heart rate and blood pressure. However, a side effect of that medicine resulted in damage to her feet and fingers.
On Jan. 31, John Gies shared that the damage to Lindsey's feet and fingers would result in a double leg amputation below both knees, as well as the loss of her fingertips.
"While we are saddened over this news, we know Lindsey’s feet hurt her worse each day," John wrote. "She is handling this better than we could imagine and knows that with prosthetics she will walk again soon."
The news came as a blessing for Lindsey, who was in constant pain before the amputation.
"As I go into surgery today, I just ask for prayers for myself and my family for the road ahead," Lindsey said in a tweet on Jan. 3. "Although this is a huge change for me, I am going into this with an open mind and I know this is one step closer to me getting back to my life again."
Those in the community who know Lindsey say her reaction was emblematic of her outlook on life.
"Her strength is something better described in comic books, in a world of daring heroes and superpowers," Duncan said. "She prevailed, and in the wake of conquering this infection, she remains so completely humble; laying thanks at the feet of a higher power. Those same words of thanks are on the lips of an entire community."
The Shelby community held its breath for the past 53 days, except to send up a prayer or offer words of encouragement. Members of the Shelby community, fellow students and supporters gathered outside of Shelby High School on Dec. 16 to hold a prayer vigil for Lindsey.
On Friday, Cornell's Super Center in Shelby announced a fundraising effort led by one of Lindsey's classmates raised more than $10,000 for the Gies family. The effort was joined by Cornell's, Shelby Printing, Green Circle Growers, Mechanics Bank and Lipari Foods.
"On the weekend of Jan. 18 we sold over 1,200 yellow doughnuts, 50 yellow orchids and many yellow 'Love for Lindsey' cards that currently fill our windows," the store said in a Facebook post. "We are humbled by the generosity and enthusiasm of our customers...Shelby IGA is truly hometown proud to be a part of this caring community."
Cain Graphics in Shelby also created "Love for Lindsey" t-shirts to sell for $10 in support of Lindsey. All proceeds were given directly to the Gies family to offset the financial burden incurred.
John Gies wrote on Jan. 31 that there are still some hurdles to clear for Lindsey, and it would still be a few more weeks before she returns to school.
"The doctors are still waiting to see how her fingers heal before making any decisions," he said. "Her legs are healing well and she hopes to be in her new legs soon."
John cautioned that the family would need some time to settle back home before accepting any visitors. But he added she is looking forward to the day she is back with her friends.
"We are so thankful for all the gifts, prayers and well-wishes from everyone," he said. "We always knew Shelby was a giving community, but your generosity has blown us away."