‘It was terrible’: Family mourns 44-year-old Duncan woman who died from COVID-19

'It was terrible': Family mourns 44-year-old Duncan woman who died from COVID-19
Watch A 44-year-old Duncan mother, who wasn't vaccinated, has died from COVID-19 complications. Her family hopes sharing her story will save a life.

Cory Ronningen’s 44-year-old sister Kelly was known as compassionate and hilarious.

“Really really funny, really compassionate person, really cared about the people around her,” he said.

She had worked in extended care and at a Duncan homeless shelter, helping those who needed it the most. But just two weeks ago she developed a cough and fever and was soon diagnosed with COVID-19.

Just a week later she was in the ICU at Royal Jubilee hospital on a ventilator, her lungs and organs failing.

“One of the last things I said to her was I’m going to cut you a break because you’re in ICU right now but when you get out you’re getting a hard time about not being vaccinated,” Ronningen said. “She was intubated about three to four hours after that.”

After getting a call from doctors early Sunday morning, Ronningen and his mother made it to the hospital in time. But because of COVID protocols had to watch from a window as the caring woman who had kept them laughing for 44 years took her final breath.

“It was terrible,” an emotional Ronningen said.

Ronningen says his sister chose not to be vaccinated over fears the vaccine itself would make her sick. Because she had pr-existing health conditions, her family kept pleading with her to do it. If she’d listened, they believe she’d still be with them.

“There’s a lot of grief and a lot of sadness, and a little bit of anger too,” Ronningen said.

Kelly Ronningen is one of five people in Island Health who have died from COVID-19 in just the past few days. As of Tuesday there were 13 people in hospital, 10 of them in ICU.

READ MORE: 1 death, 69 new COVID cases reported in Island Health

Those who work in critical care, say while most of the patients they’re seeing are unvaccinated, those choosing not to get the shot are also putting immune-compromised patients who have been vaccinated at risk as well.

“It’s not about them it’s about the risk to others that they pose in making that decision, so absolutely I think we have a right to refuse vaccination but we don’t have a right to put others at risk,” said Dr. David Forrest, a critical care physician at Nanaimo Regional General hospital.

Forrest says six of the 10 patients currently in the Nanaimo ICU are there for COVID-19 complications. And at this point in the pandemic, health care workers are burning out.

“It’s discouraging that this continues to spread and the numbers continue to increase and I think it’s predictable we’re going to see an increasing number and burden of illness,” he said.

Cory Ronningen says the risks from this virus are real. While his sister may have had some health issues, he says she’s had colds and influenza before and been fine.

“COVID is a really serious health concern and vaccines really do save lives,” he said.

He’s sharing his heartbreak in the hopes it may save even one life, and prevent one more family from living through his family’s pain.

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April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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