A mother from Florida is speaking out this week after her 12-year-old daughter died of COVID-19.
Elizabeth McNew was hospitalized for 10 days before succumbing to the novel coronavirus earlier this month. Now her mom, Elda McNew is sharing their story in hopes that it will encourage others to take this pandemic seriously and do all they can to protect others.
“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,” Elda McNew told 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.”
Despite living in Florida, a state which has been notoriously lax in regards to social distancing, masks, and large gatherings, McNew says her family was doing everything they could to prevent the spread of the virus.
When they left the house, they wore their masks. Her kids, both Elizabeth and 15-year-old Liam, were attending school online because the family felt it to be the safest option.
Brad McNew, Elizabeth’s father, works in law enforcement. He’s been vigilant in sanitizing his shoes, washing his uniform immediately, and going straight for the shower when he returns home from a shift.
Still, COVID-19 found its way into their home.
In early September, Brad began coughing and thought it was his annual bought with bronchitis. His doctor agreed, but still urged him to get tested for COVID. Around that same time, Elizabeth began feeling congested, like she would with seasonal allergies.
In the days that followed, Brad learned he had tested positive for COVID-19. At that time, Elizabeth’s health was beginning to worsen.
“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 her daughter to Wolfson Children’s Hospital and was able to stay at Elizabeth’s side throughout because she never tested positive and never had a fever.
“I never left for 10 days,” she said.
Elizabeth had a tracheostomy and was on medications to manage her symptoms and pain. She could answer questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and McNew spent her remaining time with her daughter telling her about all the support and prayers she had from family and friends.
On September 25, Elizabeth died. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is one of 109 children from Florida who have died from COVID-19 so far this year.
“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 recalled. “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.”
Elizabeth’s short life was celebrated at a memorial over the weekend where people shared memories of the red-headed girl who was a friend to everyone. McNew says her family was comforted by stories of Elizabeth’s kindness, generosity, and compassion.
As they grieve a daughter, sister, and friend, gone far too soon, McNew says she hopes their loss will serve as a reminder to others to simply be kind and care for one another.
“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.”
Our hearts are with the McNew family during this time.