CEDAR HILL, Texas — Ken and Mistee Salter were made for each other… and Friday nights.
“We’ve been looking forward to Fridays since high school,” Ken explained..
Ken and Mistee were high school sweethearts at DeSoto.
“He was different,” Mistee smiled. “He wasn’t like all the other boys.”
Ken was a star on the Eagles football team, and Mistee was always there on Friday nights to support him.
“[I had to] get out there and make sure she heard my name called on the loudspeaker,” Ken joked. “She didn’t want to be there supporting no scrub.”
“Oh God, I didn’t know anything about football then,” Mistee chimed in. “It was all about support. Just being there for him.”
It’s been that way ever since. Come November, the Salters will celebrate 18 years of marriage.
“And five kids,” Mistee added. “Now we just get excited to go to bed.”
Ken and Mistee have three sons and two daughters. Their youngest two are in high school at Cedar Hill.
“I know a lot of kids growing up don’t have that but they need it,” admitted Cedar Hill senior Kylan Salter, Ken and Mistee’s youngest son.
“When I look at them, all I can do is smile,” Mistee said. “Because I know what they’ve been through. I’ve seen their tears.”
On Jan. 17, 2021, Ken and Mistee were side by side at AT&T Stadium as their middle son, Kaidon, starred for Cedar Hill in the Texas UIL Class 6A Division II state championship game.
Despite Kaidon running for two touchdowns, the Longhorns lost to Katy, 51-14. Kaidon's high school career was officially over.
The next day, the entire Salter family (minus the eldest brother Kenneth) drove more than 12 hours to Knoxville, Tennessee.
Kaidon was one of the top quarterback recruits in the country and enrolled early to play for the Tennessee Volunteers.
However, their road trip coincided with surging COVID cases throughout the country.
Shortly after they arrived in Knoxville, all four Salter children tested positive for COVID-19. Mistee tested negative.
"I'm trying to stay strong for the kids," Mistee told WFAA in late Jan. 2021, as she sat isolated in a hotel room. "I’m trying to keep it together for them. Put on my ‘It's okay’ face and 'Everything is going to be just fine.'"
Everything was not fine.
Her husband, Ken, could barely breathe.
Mistee rushed him to UT Medical Center where he was immediately admitted and given oxygen.
“From that point on, it just kept going downhill,” Ken recalled.
Ken had a severe case of COVID-19. Doctors urged Ken to go on a ventilator.
“And that was that final conversation,” Ken said, regarding the doctors’ advice. “You either gotta go on this ventilator or you’re gonna sit in here and you’re gonna pass away.”
Ken eventually acquiesced and went on a ventilator. But due to COVID protocols at the time, Mistee could only watch from the sidelines.
“I couldn’t touch him, I couldn’t kiss him, I couldn’t hug him,” Mistee said. “I had to stand there six-feet away from him and tell him how much I loved him.”
Days went by. According to the doctors, Ken was the sickest patient in the hospital.
He needed to have his right lung removed and he had to go on an ECMO – a second life-support machine.
Mistee vividly remembers going to see Ken before the procedure.
“It felt like I was going to say goodbye,” Mistee admitted.
Weeks went by. Ken was on life support and unable to communicate with Mistee.
Mistee remained in Knoxville during the duration of Ken’s battle with COVID and ensuing complications.
“I had to continuously tell them, ‘Ma’am, Sir, I cannot go home,’” Mistee asserted. “‘He is my home. There is no home, if he’s here [in Knoxville].’”
Back in Cedar Hill, their oldest son Kenneth looked after the younger siblings including Kylan.
“I was just waiting patiently, knowing he was gonna make it through,” Kylan remembered.
Doctors told Mistee that the hospital had never had a COVID patient go on the ECMO life support machine and survive.
Ken was the first.
After 89 days in a hospital 900 miles from home, Ken was released.
“I told them I’m not staying in this hospital another day,” Ken laughed.
Ken and Mistee returned home to Cedar Hill in May 2021 and received a warm drive-by celebration from friends and family.
“Tomorrow is not promised,” Ken said. “With my [sons], every time I talk to them, they say, ‘I love you, Dad’ now.”
The Salters are living life to the fullest.
Ken and Mistee became grandparents for the first time this past summer.
Kaidon is now a star quarterback at Liberty University and thriving in the classroom. (He was dismissed from the Tennessee program in June 2021 after two run-ins with law enforcement.)
Despite an ACL injury preventing him from playing his senior season at Cedar Hill, the Salter’s youngest son, Kylan, has made his family proud.
“He’s put in so much work and to see it pay off is just amazing,” Ken beamed.
This summer, the three-star linebacker announced his college commitment to TCU.
“Every moment I get, I want to spend it with my family,” Kylan said.
Kylan will be staying close to home and to continue playing in front of mom and dad.
“He plays like he’s got something to prove,” Mistee said. “And he does it all for his dad.”