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North Dakotans share grief, losses from COVID-19 on state website

The North Dakota Department of Health recently launched a website to document the impact COVID-19 is having on North Dakota families and illustrate the seriousness of the illness.

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A coronavirus graphic. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

BISMARCK — One person described losing her husband of 40 years. Another chronicled both his parents dying only days apart. A woman recounted seeing her mother in "full dying mode." All lost their loved ones because of COVID-19.

These stories can be found on the Department of Health's newly launched North Dakota COVID-19 Impact Wall, a website where people can share stories about their loved ones and the effect the pandemic had on their lives. Officials say the website was created to document the seriousness of the illness and the actual effects it is having on North Dakota families.

The stories vary from people describing the long-term impacts of the virus on their health to people describing their loved ones dying alone in a hospital bed.

Almost all the stories have one thing in common — they encourage others to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We have the ability through vaccination to prevent stories like these from happening in the future," said North Dakota Department of Health Immunization Director Molly Howell in a release.

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A nursing home nurse from Dickey County, who did not disclose their name, entered a submission explaining the loss of their mother to COVID-19.

The nurse's mother, who lived in a nursing home, tested positive last November. They watched their mother become more sick every day.

The nurse was allowed to say goodbye to their mother, and by that time the mother "was in full dying mode," the nurse wrote. The nurse now tells others to get vaccinated and do it "to think of others."

Another person from Stutsman County, who did not disclose their name, described losing their mother to COVID-19, adding that "she aged 20 years in 10 days before her death."

"COVID is much more to me than an intellectual discussion or a political argument about getting or not getting the vaccine," they wrote.

Many people who submitted entries also tested positive themselves; however, they survived and their loved ones did not.

A woman named Lucy was married to her husband for 40 years, and he died last October. She said her husband was "an outgoing people person," and she was sad that they could only have 60 people at his funeral.

Lucy, who did not share her last name, said she now lives by herself.

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"This all happened so fast. I still don't want to believe it," she wrote. "It is so hard to be alone. Every day is a struggle without him."

While many wrote about their grief and the last moments of their loved ones' lives, others explained the strife they experienced, many still dealing with lingering COVID-19 symptoms or long-COVID-19.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jamie from Burleigh County was healthy and active when she tested positive for the coronavirus last October. Five days after testing positive, she began to feel short of breath and had trouble walking from her bedroom to the couch.

Jamie, who did not share her last name, wrote that 11 months later, she is still experiencing shortness of breath, chest pains and heart palpitations.

"I hope my story shows people that you can be a healthy and active person like myself and have your life completely flipped upside down by COVID," Jamie wrote.

People can submit stories and find information about the COVID-19 vaccine on the COVID-19 Impact Wall at covidimpactnd.com.

Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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