Dana Vega of Clarksville was a certified nursing assistant when she died of COVID-19 at age 49. Her daughter, Julia Vega, tells NPR’s Morning Edition she treated residents at Spring Meadows Nursing Home like family.
“She did little things to make people smile, and crocheting was one of her hobbies,” her 26-year-old daughter Julia Vega says. “She would make blankets for everyone. If a new baby was going to come into the world, she would make a baby blanket.”
Dana worked at Spring Meadows for 21 years after her career in the Army. Sometimes she’d work on her days off to do unofficial work, like give home care for a man with paralysis. Julia says her mother lost her own parents when she was young.
“At the nursing home, she constantly referred to people as ‘mama’ and ‘daddy’ because a lot of them at the nursing home, they didn’t have family,” she says.
COVID-19 took Julia quickly. It seemed like a cold at first, and her first test was negative. Then she retested a few days later. She died the next day.
The disease led to a blood clot in her mother’s lungs. Julia’s little sister found their mother, then ran to wake her sister who was napping. Julia tried to resuscitate her mother.
“I just did everything I could,” she says. “It took a while to realize that she was gone.”
Taking over the role of single parent
Not until the next morning did the Vegas get confirmation from Dana’s second coronavirus test. She was positive.
“I was talking to my mom that morning and she seemed very fine, was sassy,” she says. “Then seven hours later, she was gone.”
Eventually, Julia planned a funeral. In September, friends and co-workers gathered to celebrate what would have been her 50th birthday.
Julia now has custody of her sister and has packed up her mom’s house.
They’ve had a lot of support from family and friends. And Julia says she can feel her mom’s legacy in this responsibility.
“Seeing my mom be a single parent, she just had a really good work ethic. So I think that trickled down to me so that I can always provide for myself. And now I have to provide for my sister. But also, she just showed me how important it is to be kind to people. And people were so willing to love on me and my sister, and it’s just reflective of how amazing she was as a person.”