DE SOTO, Mo. – First responders from throughout the St. Louis area lined highway overpasses from St. Louis to De Soto on Thursday afternoon. They helped welcome 17-year-old Derek Mullins home from St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
The De Soto teen has persevered through a host of medical challenges in his young life, including nearly a dozen surgeries. He was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID and developing pneumonia. Derek was hoping to visit a fire station before he became ill. He’s a big fan of first responders. His parents were moved to tears over the welcome home their son received.
“Happy tears,” said Freda Mullins, Derek’s mother.
“It was amazing,” said Garry Mullins, Derek’s father.
The Mullins said they appreciated all the well wishes they received, even from strangers.
“It’s what got us through,” said Derek’s dad. He said his son was on a ventilator or 12 days.
Derek also received a special visit from St. Louis police Officer Dave Tenorio.
Tenorio was greeted with cheers when he was released from St. Luke’s Hospital earlier this year after recovering from COVID. Tenorio gave Derek some police pins and called him a hero for fighting through his illnesses.
“For him to say those things about our son, it was amazing,” Garry Mullins said.
The Mullins said they’re grateful for the care they received at the hospital and all the community support.
Michelle Montero helped organize the parade-like return home for Derek. Her husband, a St. Louis fire captain, has been involved with Derek’s life through charity events.
“I think it’s just nice to see something positive and see everybody pull together,” she said.