A Mankato woman is home after nearly a year-long hospital stay

KEYC News Now at 6 Recording
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 6:25 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - After living in a hospital for almost a year, on Wednesday, 50-year-old Tracy Stengel gave her husband, David Stengel, a special birthday gift: her return home.

“Driving here and looking out the window, I think it was about when we hit the Belle Plaine area that I realized I was really going home. And I started to cry,” said Stengel.

Despite it all, her positivity is unshaken.

“Probably the best birthday present I’ve ever had. 235 days a long time to be away from home,” said Tracy’s husband, David.

Friends and family describe Tracy as an optimistic and active community member. After living in Mankato for almost 18 years, she’s worked as a childcare provider for about 250 children over the years. But when Tracy became severely ill in 2022, she never imagined she would permanently have to say goodbye to her daycare of 15 years.

“It was really hard,” said Tracy, “because those kids would give me a hug in the morning. And then, they would laugh. And they were very sweet kids.”

After complications with neurosarcoidosis, Tracy had been confined to a hospital bed since June 2022.

For about seven months, doctors continued to give her multiple diagnoses, ruling out every thing they could until she was stable enough to transfer to Regency Hospital in Golden Valley to receive around-the-clock care.

“Having a family that advocated for me, because I couldn’t talk, helped a ton,” expressed Tracy.

But last month, she received her most devastating diagnosis. Tracy was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease: a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function.

“You know, everybody doesn’t know everything about what I’m going through. And you know what? Other people are going to struggles in their life as well. Some people are like, ‘oh my gosh, how did you handle that so gracefully?’ And it’s like, this is what has been dealt to me at this point in time. And I’m going to still fight,” explained Tracy.

Finally, Tracy returned to her own home on Wednesday, Feb. 8, the same day as Dave’s 50th birthday. Friends, family, and even a family from her former daycare all visited Tracy on her homecoming day.

Multiple ALS chapters around the Midwest have donated resources for Tracy’s new living arrangements, providing comfort and accessibility for what lies ahead. She’ll stay near her family’s living room. A bed and equipment were already set up when she returned home.

“I got pictures, you know, ‘do you want the bed here? Do you want the bed there?’ And I’m like just put me anywhere. I just want to be home. And as long as I can visit with people,” said Tracy.

“We wanted her to be involved with the whole family and with friends, so we wanted her to out here where she can still interact,” said David.

To alleviate the burden of medical expenses and nursing care for the Stengel family, friends are rallying around the family with a benefit this weekend.

“Tracy and Dave’s story has impacted so many in our town. We have one of the most active women on our committee that has never even met Dave and Tracy. So, it’s an outpouring of love that speaks highly of the family,” said Elda Nussmeier, benefit organizer and family friend.

Tracy encourages everyone to follow her simple advice: “Enjoy the moments while they’re little.”

“One day at a time,” said David.

“Yup. And that’s how we’re taking it...,” agreed Tracy.

“One day at a time,” said David.

A benefit for the Stengels is this Saturday from 5-8 p.m. at Hooligans in Mankato. All are welcome to come for a $12 spaghetti dinner and silent auction.