CARTHAGE, Texas (KETK)- COVID-19 seems to be the topic of conversation everyday. From children returning to school, to the new science behind creating a vaccine, but underneath the headlines, there seems to be a constant somber tone. The number of people who have died from the virus.
The Piney Woods is no stranger to the effects of the coronavirus. With nearly 500 reported deaths in the region, for one Carthage family, they say just one number has devastated them.
“I thought I was going to lose my entire family”
On April 14, three members of the Rougely family tested positive for COVID-19. It’s a day Shenna Rougely will remember forever, when her sister, Hazel, mother Vearline, and father Raymond received the news.
“At that point in time, I was just completely in shock. I thought I was going to lose my entire family, ” said Shenna.
Thankfully, her sister was able to quickly recover. It was a different story for her mother and father.
“Her kidney’s had failed, she had double pneumonia, she was still on a ventilator and she wasn’t responding,” remembered Shenna.
At 80 years old, Vearline has always been considered a strong woman. Just days before going to the hospital, Raymond and Vearline celebrated her 80th birthday. A moment filled with love and family. Days later, Vearline came down with a fever. Doctors diagnosed her with an upper respiratory infection.
“She had a feeding tube, and I just looked at her, and I have never seen my mom in that state, because my mom is strong,” said Shenna.
Spending 101 days inside UT Health in Tyler, Shenna remembers driving back and forth between Carthage and Tyler. Originally living in Fort Worth, Shenna spent months in East Texas caring for her family, even losing her job working for an airline company. It was a sacrifice she now sees as a blessing, wanting to be there for her parents.
“I remember saying, God, I cannot loose both of my parents,” remembered Shenna.
“Daddy I love you”
As both of her parents continued to battle the virus, Shenna became fearful that the first man in her life, would soon be gone.
At 84 years old, Raymond Rougely lived in a nursing facility. As COVID-19 cases began to surge in assisted living facilities, the family was eager to bring him back in the comforts of the family home.
Sadly, that chance never came.
After Raymond tested positive for COVID-19, he was transported to UT Health Tyler. 6 days later, he was sent back to the nursing facility, but that didn’t last long, on April 29 he returned to the hospital after developing a fever and aspirating.
On May 8, his health took a turn for the worse.
“Daddy I need you to hang in there okay, daddy I love you,” said Shenna during one of the last FaceTime calls she had with her father. At the time, Raymond responded stating he was “doing the best I can.”
“I said dad if you have to go, I understand. I don’t want you to, but if you have to go, we will take care of mom, ” Shenna remembers, “literally 24 hours later….he passed away.”
On May 15, Raymond died, as his wife still laid in the hospital fighting for her own life.
“The thing she kept saying is, I wish I could have been there. I took vows, for better or for worse, through sickness or health, and I wasn’t there to hold his hand to whisper in his ear, this is the exact quote from her, and ‘help him through that transition,” remembered Shenna.
“I don’t know how, but I made it”
After weeks of praying, there was light amid this dark time. A miracle happened on May 22. Vearline was removed from all sedation medication and began to respond to basic commands like giving a thumbs up and squeezing nurses’ hands.
“One of the doctors said 80 years old don’t survive this, they just don’t, and she did,” said Shenna.
On May 30, Vearline was able to speak for the first time since April 16.
In a video, she says she made it, “I don’t know how, but I made it.”
Finally able to see and talk to her mother face to face, the Roughely family was eager to bring their mother back home.
“When she got home, we had welcome home Vearline in big letters in the yard, and when she got home. She was so thankful,” explained Shenna.
Shenna credits her mother’s recovery to the nurses and doctors at UT Health in Tyler. Working with the family, ensuring there were constant updates about her condition.
“She was devastated”
Amid the celebration, Vearline still had no idea her husband had passed away from COVID-19. 2 months after Raymond’s funeral, Shenna had the heartbreaking job, of telling her mother, her partner for the past 60 years was gone.
“We wanted her to get a good night’s rest in her own bed and we told her, and she was devastated,” remembered Shenna.
As flowers are still being delivered to her doorstep, the Roughely’s have a new outlook on the virus.
“Every time I see the numbers about the people who passed away, I think about…there is one person in there that I lost, that I miss, that I love, that I’ll never see again,” said Shenna fighting back tears.
Hoping other families won’t feel this same pain, the three children who make up the Roughely family, have set up a scholarship fund, in their father’s honor.