‘Jamie fought every day ... so can I’: Waco mother reflects on losing son to COVID-19

Woman also lost sister to the virus; husband suffered stroke shortly after son’s death
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 3:58 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Patrick and Emily Parsons continue to mourn the death of their son, Jamie, who died of COVID-19 at just 11-years-old last month.

It was the first pediatric death attributed to COVID-19, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District announced.

Emily said that for the last year-and-a-half, her family had been overly secluded from the world, knowing Jamie, diagnosed with Hunter Syndrome at age four, was at high risk of contracting the virus.

“We didn’t go to grocery stores. We did every doctors appointment that we could virtual,” she explained, “COVID being so heavily targeting the respiratory system, we had to be very very careful. I was so scared of Jaimie getting it because of his preexisting medical conditions.”

Despite their efforts, in late August, Emily says she tested positive for COVID-19.

“I isolated in my room. I was so scared of him getting it and, when I got his test results, my heart just crashed because I was so scared of what it meant for him,” Emily said.

Jamie went into the hospital an, at the same time, Emily’s sister, Larissa Perrucci, also tested positive. Perrucci was battling ovarian cancer and was also admitted to the hospital after her COVID diagnosis.

WATCH: Extended interview with Emily Parsons

“The last I talked to her, she said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it,’” Emily remembered. She said her sister was put on a ventilator, but Emily knew it wasn’t what she wanted.

“The wonderful staff at [Baylor Scott and White McLane Children’s] watched my son so I could come to Waco and authorize the staff to take her off the ventilator and she passed in about five minutes,” Emily said.

“I never expected to lose my sister. She’s the only person from my immediate family left. Having to leave from Waco, letting her go and then having to go right back to the hospital with my son, I just kept feeling like ‘this can’t be happening.’”

Emily said her son was discharged from the hospital, but after a few days at home, they had to call an ambulance when he couldn’t maintain his oxygen levels.

Emily said that, when he went back in, she knew it wasn’t good. “I made a promise to him when he was four that as long as he fought, I would, but when he was done, I would muster up the courage to let him go, and that’s what we had to do.”

“He was 11. 11-years-old and I had to make a decision no parent should ever have to,” Emily said, fighting back tears.

After her son died, tragedy continued for Emily. That night, she says, her husband suffered a stroke, and she was back in a hospital by his side.

She said he is slowly recovering at home as they learn to exist without their son.

“Everything in our family was taking care of Jamie - from medical appointments, therapy, infusions, the daily cares of his tracheotomy, and feeding tube,” she explained.

“His name is Jamie and he mattered. He was my entire world.”

Jamie was born July 2, 2010 in Huntsville. Although he suffered from Hunter Syndrome, he “didn’t let that keep him from enjoying life,” his obituary states.

“Yes, Jamie was terminal and likely would have passed in the next three to four years. That’s three to four years I could have had with my son,” Emily said.

“Instead, I had to bury him on the first of October. I had to kiss his little face for the last time.”

A celebration of life was held on October 1 at Lake Shore Funeral Home Chapel.

Cars and SpongeBob were among the things that filled Jamie’s heart with joy. Those attending the service wore purple, and brought new matchbox cars for donation to McLane’s Children’s Hospital.

“For my family, it’s so personal. Its my only sister, its my only child and they are both now gone because of COVID,” Emily said.

Now, she’s urging the public to get vaccinated to protect the vulnerable.

“That’s why those among us who can get the vaccine, need to. It’s to protect people like Jamie,” Emily said.

“My heart breaks for all of those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 over the past 18 months. And on behalf of the city, my family and I send our condolences and prayers for peace, comfort, courage and love to the friends and family of this child,” said Waco Mayor Dillon Meek.

“This tragedy serves as a sobering reminder that we must all continue to do what we can to protect the vulnerable from the spread of COVID-19,” the mayor said, “I continue to urge all eligible community members who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine to talk to their healthcare provider and make a plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Meek implored those concerned about the vaccine “to consult with your doctor—just like you would on all other health-related matters—to thoroughly discuss and address those concerns.”

“If you, ultimately, choose not to get vaccinated, I ask you to recognize how contagious this virus is in causing unvaccinated patients of all ages to develop serious, serious illness and take the appropriate steps at this time to alter your behaviors.”

Local health officials said the Delta variant is a highly aggressive form of the coronavirus that can cause serious complications “even to people who are young and healthy.”

Officials remind the public that the COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to protect against severe outcomes due to COVID-19. The health district also reminds Central Texans to focus and promote the importance of vaccinations, masks, and social distancing.

“These three actions will protect you and your loved ones from this deadly virus,” the health district said.

Emily is back at work, making sure her bills still get paid while her husband recovers from the stroke. She says she keeps going, in honor of the life Jamie lived.

“I just keep telling myself, Jamie fought every day. Every day. He was in pain he had heart conditions, issues with his brain, bone and joint issues, and if he could get up every day and still be happy and still enjoy life, then so can I.”

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