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A grieving mother is urging the public to wear a face mask after losing her 12-year-old daughter to COVID-19.
Elda McNew of Atlantic Beach, Fla., is hoping that by sharing the story of her daughter Elizabeth’s death, people will think twice about dismissing the severity of the novel coronavirus.
“If you kept one germ droplet from just accidentally getting on another person, you have been a hero, and all it took was an annoying little mask,” McNew said in an interview with TODAY. “I would like people to think of the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Because we need to find some love and compassion for each other.’”
According to McNew, her family believed they had been taking the proper precautions to stay safe during the pandemic. Both Elizabeth and her 15-year-old brother, Liam, were attending school virtually from home, and the family always wore masks when leaving the house. Although McNew’s husband Brad was still working outside of the home in law enforcement, each time he returned home he would thoroughly sanitize his shoes, shower and put his clothes the wash.
Earlier this month, both Brad and Elizabeth began feeling unwell. At the request of his doctor, Brad received a test for COVID-19 due to his cough, while the family believed Elizabeth’s congestion might be seasonal allergies.
“Even though my husband tested positive, his symptoms were very mild to moderate,” McNew explained. “It became very clear that Elizabeth was not just having allergies ... She came and said, ‘I can’t breathe exactly good.’”
McNew took Elizabeth to Wolfson Children's Hospital and stayed with her for the 10 days that her daughter was in hospital.
Doctors gave Elizabeth pain medication and performed a tracheostomy to help improve her breathing. McNew spent her time comforting her daughter and letting her know how many people were rooting for her to get better.
“I wanted to tell her how many people loved her and that daddy’s praying and (her) brother’s praying,” she said. “She would start crying … So I just began touching her and saying, ‘I’m here.’”
McNew said the staff at Wolfson would include her in meetings about Elizabeth’s care and worked around the clock to help her daughter. However, Elizabeth’s infection became “a little more intense” and she succumbed to her illness on Sept. 25.
“Each one of the doctors or nurses ... said, ‘I’m so sorry that I couldn’t do a better job,’ or ‘I couldn’t save her,’” McNew said of that day. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I saw you in there. You were doing everything.’ I was just absolutely stunned at the humbleness and veracity they had. They wanted to save her.”
Now, McNew and her family are honouring Elizabeth’s life by incorporating the fairy houses she used to make into their garden. McNew said her daughter loved to sing, and will be remembered by a generous, and kind girl beloved by all.
“She had friends everywhere,” McNew said. “She didn’t care if you were just born or 100 years old. She would stop and talk to you and give you a hug or help you.”
McNew’s community has rallied behind the family, organizing memorials, GoFundMe’s and dropping off home-cooked meals.
While the family has plans to honour and remember Elizabeth forever, they hope that people will think of their daughter and become as selfless and compassionate as she was by wearing a mask to protect themselves and others.
“We all need to think about each other,” she said. “Masks are uncomfortable and they’re annoying, and here in Florida, they fog up your glasses. I know it is hard. But it’s harder to plan a funeral. It’s harder to watch your daughter struggle for breath for 10 days.”