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Coronavirus Victims: North Carolina College Student Jamesha Waddell


Jamesha Waddell spent nearly two months in the hospital with COVID-19. She died earlier this month at just 23 years old.


Her grandmother Janice Waddell had a nickname for Jamesha.

JANICE WADDELL: I call her my rose.

SHAPIRO: Jamesha was a senior at Livingstone College in North Carolina. She was the kind of granddaughter who would drop everything to drive 3 1/2 hours if her grandmother needed her.

WADDELL: I quit driving a long time ago. And she would come home on weekends - she knew I had somewhere special to go. She would come home and take me wherever I had to go.

KELLY: Jamesha's uncle Terry also remembers her being there for him when he needed her.

TERRY: She used to stay with me over the summer when she used to come home from college. When she was there with me, it felt like me not being all alone.

SHAPIRO: She loved to cook. Blue crabs were her favorite meal.

TERRY: She always had, you know - she always had dinner for me, you know? I'm sorry. She had dinner for me all the time, you know, when it was time for me to go to work.

KELLY: Her family also remembers her for her strong will.

WADDELL: Yeah, she (laughter) - she loved to have her way. So when she didn't get her way, boy, the other side of her would come out (laughter).

SHAPIRO: She was a stickler for cleanliness. Terry remembers how Jamesha dealt with some of the items his ex-wife left behind when they split.

TERRY: (Laughter) She threw my ex-wife's stuff out. And I was like, Mesha (ph), she's going to come back and get this stuff. I don't care. I'm throwing it out (laughter).

KELLY: Terry, Janice and Jamesha were all hospitalized with COVID-19 this fall. Janice and Terry are on the mend. Jamesha died a week before Thanksgiving.

SHAPIRO: Janice and Jamesha were in the same hospital. Janice couldn't go into her granddaughter's room, but she was able to see her through the window.

WADDELL: It was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking 'cause that's my granddaughter, and that was my rose.

KELLY: Janice hopes, if nothing else, that Jamesha's death will be a wake-up call to young people who do not take COVID seriously.

WADDELL: A lot of young people think they can't die, and that's not true because Jamesha was 23 years old with no underlying conditions.

SHAPIRO: Now Janice and Terry are recovering at home.

TERRY: When I look at that room in my apartment, I can never go in that room 'cause, you know, I get so emotional just looking. I be thinking she's right in that room.

KELLY: Terry's lungs are in bad shape. And Janice, after 48 days in the hospital, is still on oxygen and learning to walk again. These are the times when Jamesha normally would've shown up to help.

WADDELL: She sure would. She'd be right here taking care of me. Yeah. Jamesha would be right here to do everything.

SHAPIRO: But even if Jamesha isn't physically there, Janice says she'll always be in her heart.

WADDELL: I guess God - he looked down in his garden and saw he needed a rose, and he plucked my rose. And there ain't nothing I can do about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIRK MAASSEN'S "SINAAI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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