VOICES: COVID is not just a number

Ray Marcano
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Ray Marcano

Numbers don’t lie but they sure can be manipulated to fit a worldview.

That’s been happening with COVID for too long. Despite more than 43 million cases — of which 5.7 million are children — and nearly 700,000 deaths in the US, some people still don’t believe COVID is that big of a deal.

Read what two parents told me last week and maybe you’ll change your mind.

Julie Mulkey of Mobile, Alabama, lost her daughter Haley Richardson, 32, who was a nurse; her unborn granddaughter; and her brother to COVID within a span of eight days in August. Neither Haley, worried about pregnancy complications nor her brother were vaccinated.

“I can’t describe it. It’s been a nightmare that you just couldn’t imagine.

“Haley had to go through all of this alone. She was in isolation. She had to face the fact that she was losing in her baby. And there was nobody with her, to help her handle that.”

“Haley has a little girl, she just turned 3 on Aug. 31, and to look at that child, and to know, she’ll grow up without ever knowing her mother is just heartbreaking.”

You can’t know how devastating this is until you have the doctors call you in the middle of the night, we need permission to do this procedure. You’re just shaking like a leaf in the wind because you just, you’re just waiting for the bomb to drop that she’s gone. And it’s just, I can’t describe it. It is just horrendous. I lived in fear of the phone.

“I don’t want to wear a mask every time I walk out the door. But I don’t want anyone to go through what my daughter went through, either. And if there’s anything that anybody can do to protect themselves, I think they should.”

Mykel Robinson of Raleigh, Mississippi lost her 13-year-old daughter M’Kayla, who died of COVID on Aug. 14, just days after she was diagnosed. M’Kayla seemed to be getting better until the day she died.

M'Kayla Robinson, 13, died of Covid on August 14, 2021
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M'Kayla Robinson, 13, died of Covid on August 14, 2021

“I said ‘KK are you okay?’ and she said no, so I gave her two puffs of an inhaler because that’s what the directions said and I called 9-11. But in the emergency room, the lady said she wasn’t going to make I because of all of the trauma before she got there. I saw the guy with his breathing (bag value) mask and he said, should we call it? And they did.

“I have to deal with my loss. I have to deal with my emotions, but I have to deal with my five-year-old son. He came in the other day and said he missed his sister and just cried and I cried with him.

“I’m taking depression medication and anxiety medication to help me sleep. I just It’s very hard.

“I feel like I have to pretend like she never because she’s not here. She was here one day and now she’s not.

“She was my everything.”

These short excerpts of much longer conversations don’t do justice to the grief these people feel. At one point, as we talked about her strong faith and Christian beliefs, I pause the conversation for a few seconds because my daughter (actually, my stepdaughter but that’s not how I think of her) had come into the house and my dogs were barking. She said:

“Be thankful you have her to come in.”

Robinson spoke by video so I could see the tears streaming down her face as she talked about confronting her daughter’s death while raising a two-year-old and a five-year-old with no family or friends to speak of who could provide emotional support.

“I’m by myself,” she said.

At first, I thought COVID deniers hiding behind numbers were ill-informed, but they’re just willfully cruel and callous. COVID is not about numbers. It’s about the people who have had their lives forever changed by this virus. Every birthday, holiday, favorite movie, and more reminds them of what they lost.

It should remind us all that COVID is more than numbers.