ECORSE, Mich. (FOX 2) - "It's amazing to survive it really, because it takes everything out of you, it leaves nothing," said Nathaniel Elem.
There's something about giving people their flowers while they're still here to smell them - and for Nathaniel and Carolyn Elem's family, they are simply grateful for the opportunity.
"They had a speedy recovery and they're back home with family and friends and we just really thank God for that," said niece Armisha Johnson.
Nathaniel and Carolyn were diagnosed, hospitalized and treated for COVID-19. But they beat back the bug enough to celebrate their 65th anniversary and Nathaniel's 86th birthday at their home in Ecorse - with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
"It's good for seeing them," said Solomon Turner, their great-grandson. "When they were sick, I didn't go in their room because they were very sick. Now they're feeling better. Now it's their anniversary."
"The things we went through the last couple weeks two or three weeks with this COVID-19," said Nathaniel. "It really took us down. But it also made us strong and not afraid of things."
Nathaniel, a former steel worker and Ecorse city councilman, says the worst part of their bout with COVID-19 was the debilitating weakness they experienced.
Carolyn, a retired teacher, attributes their recovery to the grace of God.
"We know that it's God that brought us through," she said. "Because when you look back, you just wonder how did you get on this side."
The odds were not necessarily in the Elems’ favor. Both are in their 80s - an age ranges that accounts for more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan.
The Elems received experimental treatments to help fight the virus. For Nathaniel it was Remdesivir. For Carolyn, hydroxychloroquine.
"It really didn't look good for a minute," said Yolanda Turner “But we put our hope faith and trust in Jesus Christ and he healed them and brought them back to us so we're grateful and hope to celebrate many more birthdays and anniversaries."
"One thing about this pandemic is it made people come together as family,” said Yolanda Turner, granddaughter. "Just enjoying each other and you can't put a price tag on that."
The Elems were hospitalized together as roommates at University of Michigan Hospital. The next big family function is Thanksgiving - which is also Carolyn's 85th birthday.