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“She was kind of a homebody,” Sara White of Miami Twp. said of her mom. “Unless it had something to do with her kids and her husband, she just really didn’t leave the house very often.”
But there Sara and her sisters were in gowns, gloves and masks on April 8 at Springfield Regional Medical Center. With medical staff on hand, they said their goodbyes to the woman who, when she was healthy, perked up when anyone mentioned any of their names.
Sara says her dad could not be in the room.
“He just said that he just couldn’t fathom watching his wife take her last breath and watching her heart rate become zero,” Sara said. “He just couldn’t do it.”
Sunday, April 19, would have marked Angela White’s 34th year of marriage to Christopher.
Not just the flu
Chris White and Wngela White
Sara, a 31-year-old client executive who advises companies on health insurance, said her mother’s death and decline over two excruciating weeks illustrates the seriousness of COVID-19.
“This virus is a monster. It starts with one aspect of your body, typically your lungs, and then it literally takes all prisoners. (The) prisoners are your organs, and your blood, and your faculties, your extremities,” she said. “Then it is killing your brain.”
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Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Angela White was one of six children and came to the United States as a teenager. She met the man who would be her husband when she was about 20.
With her husband in self-quarantine, Angela White was sedated March 23 before being transferred from Mercy Health - Urbana Hospital to Springfield Regional.
He had taken her to the hospital two days before and insisted that she be treated, refusing to take her home when officials said he should, Sara said.
Angela White and Landon Daudistel
Credit: Sara White
Credit: Sara White
Each family member decided for themselves if they wanted to be in the room when Angela, a woman remembered in her obituary for her knack for interior design, love of family and sports and support of the Caring Kitchen and other Champaign County charities, died.
“I am actually glad my dad didn’t (go in). I’m glad he’s able to still envision her in full health, in her full personality and everything,” Sara said.
Angela White’s decline after experiencing flu-like symptoms in March was dramatic.
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Days before Angela White became ill, she was helping Sara raise money as part of Sara’s campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year, a fundraiser. “It was such a cool bonding time for us. We talked every day, regardless of the campaign, but we talked so much more. We would talk two, three or four times a day throughout that campaign,” Sara said.
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Sara said her mother, who often had a cough, sought medical attention after losing her appetite and coming down with a recurring fever. She eventually became nauseous and her doctor approved her for the coronavirus test she got at the center set up in the University of Dayton Arena parking lot.
Angela White and Annemarie Bradford
Her fever spiked, and even though the results were not in, Sara said her dad knew something had to be done.
“She was literally laying on the couch and she could barely gasp for air,” Sara recalled of the last time she talked to her mom. “On Saturday afternoon … I had a conversation with my mom on the phone, and by Monday morning, she’s completely sedated. Her lungs are filled with fluid, and she has no ability to breathe on her own.
“Her kidneys and her liver were in failure so they had to administer dialysis to clean her blood,” Sara said. “They’re pumping all of these fluids into her body. They’re having to feed her through a tube. They’re having to hydrate her through a tube. They’re having to give her electrolytes … but then the problem is that when your body’s not functioning on its own, you’re not secreting any of those fluids. Then when you don’t secrete them, your acid level goes up. Basically she was going into acidosis, which is what is causing her kidneys and her liver to fail.”
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After attempts to have her breathe on her own failed, Angela White was given a CT scan which revealed that she suffered a stroke.
“They explained that the stroke was so severe. The neurologist team told us she will never think again. She will never eat on her own again. … And they said that the likelihood of her being able to breathe again on her own was slim to none.”
The family made the decision to remove her from life support. Sara said it’s what her mother would have wanted.
Sara White, Amie White, Angela White, Leah White and Annemarie Bradford
Credit: Sara White
Credit: Sara White
That last contact through gloves, gowns and mask was only the third time she and her sisters were able to see their mom after she was admitted.
Once before that moment, they saw her via FaceTime. The other time, they were called to the hospital after her health had taken a turn for the worse.
“Then they allowed us to gown up like we were surgeons and go into my mom’s room to to basically pray with her and begged her to keep fighting and tell her that we’re here for her,” Sara said.
Sara said she doesn’t know how her mom became infected with coronavirus. Angela White worked from home for a medical billing company, making rare trips to nursing homes, none of which have been identified as hot spots.
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“It’s really ironic. She definitely is someone that changed some of the statistics that we had been hearing,” she said.
Typically a private person, Sara said she has shared part of her family’s journey on Facebook.
She says it is hard to see people not taking the pandemic seriously, particularly those who have had parties in their home and have introduced new people into their lives and to the lives of their children.
Still, she says she understands why it is hard for some people to get it. She shares her family’s story to help others.
“Sometimes things aren’t reality for you unless you’re living them,” she said. “I’ve had people reach out to me to say, ‘You know what, I didn’t realize how close it was. It’s different when you’re talking about Italy or you’re talking about New York. We’re not at in either of those places, but when you’re telling me you live here in Montgomery County and your mom in Champaign County contracted it.’ She’s like, ‘It feels real now, and I’m going to start following the rules a little bit better.”