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SARS survivor returns to Utah

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OREM — For 5-year-old girls, 20 minutes can seem endless.

So when Jiahui Salisbury pulled up in her minivan Friday with her 6-year-old son, Mickey, his triplet sisters squealed with excitement at the sight of their brother, who was returning home from China without a trace of the frightening illness — known around the world as SARS — that killed their father there.

Then Mickey endured a short scolding.

"You scared us, Mickey!" said one of the triplets, Melinda, summing up the Salisbury family's two-month nightmare.

The joyous reunion came 20 minutes after Utah County Health Department officials found that Mickey showed no signs of sudden acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

His father, James Salisbury, died of SARS April 10 in Hong Kong. Since then, Mickey has been in quarantine at a Hong Kong hospital.

"The doctors were nice," Mickey said, "but two times they had to give me shots on the day I was going home."

Melinda, Melody and Melissa smothered Mickey with hugs and kisses. Melissa is blind but recognized her brother's voice, and the triplets quickly made plans to "play in the back yard" and listen to their big brother's stories.

"To see my family all together, it is a big day," Jiahui Salisbury said.

She flew to Hong Kong to bring Mickey home after doctors released him April 23.

Mother and son returned to Utah a week ago but went into self-imposed isolation in an undisclosed location in Salt Lake City.

That decision was made on the advice of Elder Francis Burton, the Hong Kong area medical adviser for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Michelle Salisbury, Mickey's half-sister.

Mickey and his mother were examined Friday morning at the county health department and cleared to return home.

"Both individuals have received a medical examination, and they have no sign of respiratory illness," said Dr. Joseph K. Miner, executive director of the county health department.

"They have passed the incubation period and pose no risk to their family, neighbors, classmates and especially to the general public."

James Salisbury began to feel ill in early March and was hospitalized, along with Mickey, on March 31. Salisbury was in critical condition when he was placed April 10 in an ambulance to be taken from Shenzhen, China, where he was teaching English at a university, to Hong Kong.

The former Utah Valley State College instructor and graduate of Brigham Young University and Harvard died en route to the Hong Kong hospital. He was 52. He left eight children, four from a former marriage.

Mickey asked for his father during phone conversations while he was quarantined, but his mother waited to tell him his father was dead until she arrived in Hong Kong to bring him home.

Doctors waffled on Mickey's diagnosis but finally confirmed that he had a mild case of SARS, which has killed 391 people worldwide.

Mary Salisbury said having her grandson back in her arms helped relieve some of the pain of the past two months.

"It's a little more positive now," she said. "The sun is shinning and the children are getting back together."


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com