These children lost their young parents to Covid-19. This is what other children and adults want to know

This is what some children and families who have lost their young parents due to the pandemic want to know.

Laila Domínguez never thought she should grow up so fast.

When the Covid-19 hit her parents last winter, the 13-year-old helped watch over her two younger siblings and care for her mother, who was seriously ill and had severe chills.

“The chills were bad. I was shaking like I was in Antarctica or something,” the Troy, Wisconsin girl said.

Her mother, Amanda Nelson, heard her hit by a train. “It was hard to even get up and move,” the 42-year-old said.

But “I couldn’t go to the hospital because I was the only father at home.”

The children’s father, Benny Domínguez, was already hospitalized with Covid-19 and in much worse condition.

The 43-year-old, who loved cycling with his children and playing with them in the park, was intubated and could no longer breathe on his own.

On January 10, when Domínguez’s condition became serious, Nelson faced an agonizing decision: try to see his many-year-old partner for the last time or stay with his 13-, 9-, and 9-year-old children. 4 years, who could not go to the hospital.

“It was very difficult to tell the kids because they weren’t allowed to go up there because of their age. So no one was able to say goodbye,” Nelson said.

“I didn’t go because I had to be here for the kids. I couldn’t leave them because I knew what was going on … They knew they would lose their father.”

To Laila, the nightmare didn’t seem real.

“I was in a state of shock, disbelief and sadness. Sometimes, I’m still in a state of shock,” Laila said. Sometimes, “it will get very, very dark. And sometimes it’s too much for me.”

Her family’s house, once filled with her father’s bustling laughter, is now strangely quiet. And the pain is now exacerbated by anxiety about the future.

Dominguez was a stay-at-home father who cared for Laila, 9-year-old Aurora, and 4-year-old Benny, who has special needs. Nelson juggled as a bartender and waitress to support the family.

But Nelson has not been able to work since his partner’s death. She has been overwhelmed by her own pain while caring for three downtrodden children alone.

“I’m just going through it and living off what I had in savings,” he said.

Nelson only has a few more months of savings, he said. He will soon have to find a job.

And 13-year-old Laila is likely to take on more responsibilities, including caring for her brother and sister. Her last experience caring for her traumatized siblings caused a panic attack.

“It’s definitely been stressful for me. I can’t explain it,” Laila said.

But since the death of her father, Laila has acquired a powerful new skill: the ability to face the bullies who make fun of her for wearing a mask.

Laila used to try to ignore these teasing. Now, she responds with a painfully blunt answer: “My father died.”

Some bullies were surprised and learned of his unexpected response, Laila said. He hopes more children will learn from his story and take Covid-19 seriously.

“What I wish they knew about Covid is how dangerous it is … and to be more aware of what they say.”

A 5-year-old boy witnessed the collapse of his young mother

As a four-time cancer survivor, Katie Klosterman always thought she would be the one to worry about Covid-19, not her healthy, lively 24-year-old daughter, Tina Owens.

But during the Delta variant hike, when younger people were hospitalized, Owens collapsed on the living room floor of his Texas apartment.

The only other person in the house was Owens’ 5-year-old son, Tye. He had just finished his first day of kindergarten.

“Knowing that his last vision of his mother is something that comes out of his nose and mouth … it breaks my heart,” Klosterman said.

Owens told his son to go find his neighbor, a certified nursing assistant. The neighbor rushed in, called 911, and began chest compressions, but to no avail.

Owens died at 6:44 pm That evening, Tye was detained by Child Protection Services.

When Klosterman learned of his daughter’s death a few hours later, he jumped on the next flight to San Antonio to take his grandson to Florida.

“When I got there the next day and went to pick him up at CPS care, I sat him down and told him his mother is in heaven,” Klosterman said.

“You can’t see or touch her like I can. But she’s here. She’s always around you,” Grandma told the boy. “It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry.”

Covid-19 not only stole Tye’s mother, but also her plans for a new life for them.

Despite the challenges of becoming a teenage mother, Owens excelled at school and was about to embark on her dream career.

“She was actually a full-time (therapy) physical therapy student, a 4.0 student,” Klosterman said. “She absolutely loved it. She was starting her life.”

Klosterman said his daughter also pledged to be vaccinated against Covid-19. But he became ill before he was completely vaccinated.

“Don’t expect a 24-year-old to die,” Klosterman said.

Owens was an avid user of TikTok and recorded many videos. Klosterman now shares TikTok videos of his daughter with his grandson.

“I’m trying to make sure he remembers his voice,” he said. “I’ll play them for him to make her feel more alive for him.”

But raising a Covid orphan can be a huge challenge. Tye, now 6, sometimes talks about traumatic details such as “things came out of her mother’s nose and mouth.”

Klosterman keeps his own pain bottled up and doesn’t let himself cry until Tye falls asleep, he said.

And she has had to change from a grandma who spoils her grandson to a parental figure who can dominate authority, which can be hard for a child to accept.

For others who are suddenly raising Covid orphans, Klosterman advises receiving therapy for all family members and parenting classes for grandparents like her.

“A lot of parenting roles have changed since we raised our children,” Klosterman said. “And as a grandmother, now you do it again.”

An EMT who was on the front lines of the pandemic will not see his son follow in his footsteps

While many teenagers try to separate from their parents, Connor Luensman did not tire of his father, James.

Like his father, Connor became a high school star fighter, even making the college team his first year at Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

They also shared a passion for helping others. James proudly served his community as an EMT. Connor has signed up for an EMT program for next year.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field, for sure,” said Connor, now 17. “I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life. My father has been doing it since I was born. So it seemed natural to me.”

But James will never see his son fulfill that dream. In October 2020, a few weeks before health workers could be vaccinated, James Luensman fell ill with Covid-19.

Although seriously ill, Luensman hoped to recover, be vaccinated, and help patients again as soon as possible.

“I didn’t want others to feel like him,” Connor said.

But Luensman’s condition deteriorated. Connor remembers his last conversation with his lifelong idol. He said, “Don’t give up, and I loved him.”

James Luensman died on October 30, 2020. He was 43 years old.

A few months later, the first day Connor was eligible for vaccination, he went and shot himself along with his mother Sallie Luensman.

“I wanted to do it for my dad because he never got the chance,” Connor said. “It almost felt like I was there.”

Connor has now received three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with no major side effects. This is impressive because Connor had always been allergic to vaccines.

“So every time we get a vaccine, we always have to take a high dose of antibiotics and a high dose of steroid on top of that,” Sallie Luensman said.

But with Covid-19 vaccinations, “this was the first vaccine I’ve ever had a reaction to.”

The Luenmans are comforted because their tragedy has inspired others to get vaccinated.

“Other relatives and friends of ours were vaccinated specifically for James, in his honor, because we all know and have seen how traumatic it can be to lose someone who has made a difference,” said Sallie Luensman.

Connor wants everyone, even children, to understand the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19, he said.

“It’s not just about you,” he said. “It’s about protecting everyone else.”

A father’s daughter thought her father’s bear was getting better. He didn’t

Since she can remember, 13-year-old Jessica Barrios and her father have been inseparable.

He often dreamed of celebrating great milestones with his father, Julio “Robert” Barrios. His celebration of Sweet 16. His first time behind the wheel of a car. Walking down the aisle at her wedding.

But Robert will not be there for any of these events. He became ill with Covid-19 in June 2020 and was hospitalized for 81 days. After his release, he fought a long Covid for more than a year at his home in Seneca, South Carolina.

Persistent symptoms included shortness of breath in damaged lungs, extreme fatigue, memory problems, and a lack of endurance: “not being able to do even simple household chores,” said his wife Summer Barrios.

“Staying awake long enough to handle dishes or even crouching down to get your clothes out of the dryer or showering would sometimes be debilitating for him, to feel like he has a serious case of the flu. “.

Robert’s health took a devastating turn on March 22, when he died at the age of 49. His obituary said he died of a “massive heart attack caused by complications of Covid 19”.

“Before Covid, I never thought I would be a widow at 41,” Summer Barrios said.

Jessica is still struggling with the reality of never seeing her Papa Bear again.

“I never thought we would be in this position so soon … to think he won’t come back,” he said.

Jessica and her father had a …

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