'Do it for the people you care about': Florida woman urges people to get vaccinated after losing her dad and brother to Covid-19 the same week
By David Williams, CNN
(CNN) -- Payten McCall, 24, and her family were afraid to get vaccinated, but now she's urging people not to make that mistake after losing her oldest brother and her dad to Covid-19.
Her dad, Mark McCall, 60, died early Friday morning in the Covid ward of a Jacksonville, Florida, hospital where her mom, Sherry McCall, 58, was also being treated for the virus.
The family was already reeling after her brother, Britt McCall, 35, died on Monday.
"It has been one of the most, roughest and hardest experiences that I have ever had to go through in my whole life and I would never, ever wish this on anybody in their family," McCall told CNN. "I mean, I wish it wasn't me, but I sure wouldn't wish it on anybody."
She said her mom was well enough to come home on Friday night but is heartbroken after losing her oldest son and her husband of more than 38 years.
The family was scared to get the vaccine, McCall said, because they have health conditions and didn't know how their bodies would react to the shots.
"We weren't trying to convince anyone not to get it," she said. "We didn't care what choices people made, but unfortunately we made the wrong one."
The number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations has increased in recent weeks because of the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, and health officials warn that unvaccinated people are at higher risk.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 49.5% of the US population is fully vaccinated, as of Friday morning, and that 57.9% of people over 12 years old are vaccinated.
The pace of Covid-19 vaccinations in the US has risen steadily over the past three weeks, particularly in several Southern states with low vaccination rates, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.
Last visit with dad
McCall said she tested negative for Covid-19 and has gotten her first vaccination dose since her parents were hospitalized.
She and her fiancé were able to suit up in double masks and full PPE on Thursday for one last visit with her dad.
McCall said her dad was tired and on a lot of medication, but he fought hard to remain coherent while she held his hand and rubbed his head.
"I didn't get to hug him and I didn't get to kiss him, but I rubbed him and let him know that I was there and that I was proud of him for pushing as far as he did," she said. "I got to tell him that I loved him and that it was OK and that I got vaccinated. He said he knew and he loved me too."
She said her brother Britt got sick around the Fourth of July and was taken directly to the ICU when he went to the emergency room for treatment.
Britt's fiancée also got Covid and her mother and grandmother died from it over a five-day period, McCall said.
She said her brother seemed to be doing OK up until he had to go on a ventilator.
"After a couple days, he wanted to go home, so he was trying to do anything he could to get home," she said. "He fought for three weeks to come home and he suffered from complications of Covid and he didn't make it."
Her parents contracted Covid-19 a week after Britt, McCall said. They'd been around other relatives, who got sick at about the same time.
She said her mom was immediately hospitalized, but her dad's symptoms weren't as severe so he was told to quarantine at home. He got worse and had to be admitted nine days later.
'People envied how good of a daddy he was'
McCall said her dad was her hero and that he did everything in his power to make sure that she didn't want or need anything -- he'd go and fill her car up with gas even after she was an adult.
"Oh my God, we were so tight," she said. "We literally had one of the best relationships a father and daughter could have."
Mark was a foreman in the mill shop for Duval County Public Schools and worked with Britt. Sherry is a media specialist in the district.
"Daddy could do anything. He could fix your car -- he wouldn't know anything about it, but he could fix it -- and he was the best craftsman I've ever seen," she said. "I don't know how anybody could ever fill the shoes my dad left. He was loved by so many people, and he still is."
McCall said she and her brother, Cason McCall, 31, grew up in Britt's shadow because he was a great athlete with "the most beautiful blue eyes" and was "the kindest, most giving person I've ever met in my life."
She said Britt was their leader and he always knew what to say, "especially in situations like this."
"Cason and I are finding it hard to manage because Britt was good at everything and he was good at things like this," she said. "I love Cason, and I feel for him because he's got to be the leader and he's got to protect us. It's just me, him and my momma."
McCall said she has so many regrets and wishes that she could go back in time and make different decisions.
She said her dad was "supposed to be there for so many things," including her wedding next May.
"I wanted him so badly to walk me down the aisle and he won't be there," she said. "And it's all because we were scared. We were scared to get the vaccine and we were scared about everything."
She wants people who think it can't happen to them to know that she thought that too until her family got sick.
"All the people who are scared to get vaccinated, do it!" she said. "Do it for the people you care about because I don't think you want to see them suffer the way we're suffering right now."
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