By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
When Fulton’s McKenzie King opened the passenger side door of her family’s SUV and put her feet to the pavement, she was greeted with the kind of thunderous applause befitting a celebrity.
She was smiling as the crowd of more than 100 people — friends, family, teachers — surged around her. Slowly but steadily, she made her way through the crowd, in turn hugging one person after another.
“There are so many people I need to see,” she said, and the crowd laughed.
For someone who, about a month ago, wasn’t supposed to ever walk again, Fulton’s McKenzie King seemed to be doing pretty darn well.
King, who has been hospitalized since July, arrived home last week to a great deal of fanfare. Her family was escorted into town by a cadre of police cruisers, which led the family to Itawamba Agricultural High School, where dozens of supporters awaited her.
Many of the crowd were decked in yellow clothes — McKenzie’s color — and holding supportive signs. Some carried umbrellas — a tangible metaphor for the popular Christian expression, “If you pray for rain, you better bring an umbrella.” Members of the school band played as her family’s vehicle approached.
Believe it or not, this display represented just a portion of the wave of support McKenzie and her family have seen since the beginning of her ordeal. Her online support group has more than 15,000 members from all across the country, and hundreds turned out in July for a nighttime prayer vigil.
“We are so blessed to have a community that would rally around McKenzie and our family like it has,” McKenzie’s mother, Sherree, said.
McKenzie was hospitalized in Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis on July 29 to remove a cyst from her brain. Following surgery, she suffered a stroke and remained in a medicine-induced coma for weeks.
Following her stroke, McKenzie’s condition ebbed and flowed. One day, she would seem better; the next, she’d take a turn for the worse. Doctors couldn’t say the extent to which she would ever recover: She might not ever talk again or walk again. The only thing that was certain was uncertainty.
But, miraculously, King’s condition has improved over time, culminating in her chance to come home last week. It was a tearful reunion with people who haven’t seen her in months, but who have thought about her constantly.
King is a recent graduate of Itawamba Agricultural High School. Last year, she was featured as Belle in the local production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” She is a travel enthusiast, devotee of her spirituality and a lover of music.
She is also, quite apparently, very much loved.