MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With a dramatic drop in COVID case numbers since spring, the post-pandemic picture is looking more promising by the day.

WCCO shares how some of the state’s most vulnerable populations have found hope at Children’s Minnesota.

READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: As Cases Dwindle, Community Spread Now Prime Source Of New Infections

Today is different than Kali McKellip’s countless trips to Children’s Minnesota. It marks the final countdown to more freedom after 16 long months at home with mom.

(credit: CBS)

“I’ve worked too hard to let this virus take her from me,” Janice Eason said. “I worked strictly online. I’m a kindergarten teacher, so I worked from home. She did distance learning. We have been nowhere.”

Kali was born at 24 weeks weighing less than two pounds. A double lung transplant saved her life.

At the age of 14, a COVID infection could threaten it again.

“I hear it’s all respiratory, it affects the lungs. And this is what I’ve worked 14 years to protect,” Eason said.

Protection came in the form of Kali’s second Pfizer vaccine at the hospital that looked back on a trying year.

READ MORE: Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer Says Unvaccinated Players Will Have 'A Hard Time'

Patsy Stinchfield is a nurse practitioner for Children’s Minnesota.

“We’ve taken care of over 3,000 positive patients and 400 of them have been admitted to the hospital. Many of them have been in the intensive care unit, and some on ventilators and life support for weeks on end. Thankfully, no deaths,” Stinchfield said.

Stinchfield has seen what the virus is capable of in kids.

“We’re vaccinating children like Kali with transplants, kids with cancer, but really anyone and everyone 12 and over is who we have been inviting,” Stinchfield said.

An invitation this mother and daughter counted down the days for.

“It’s hope I haven’t had in 16 months,” Eason said.

MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In MN: 2nd Consecutive Day Of Under 100 New Cases Reported

In the last 16 months, Children’s Minnesota has also treated 70 of Minnesota’s 90 rare inflammatory cases tied to COVID. Thankfully, all of those children have also survived.

Liz Collin