Grieving brother urges people to get vaccinated after sister dies from COVID-19

“I believe my sister would still be alive today if she was vaccinated.”

Cory Ronningen’s sister, Kelly, a 44 year old single mother from Duncan, BC, died August 30 from complications of COVID-19. Cory says Kelly expressed a lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccines and was influenced by conspiracy theories and misinformation.

“I did tell her that she should get vaccinated but it wasn’t something she wanted to discuss.”

Cory says Kelly rarely left her house and tended to visit only a couple of places. She stayed at home the first week of her illness, finally going to hospital when it became too difficult to breathe. From there she was diagnosed with COVID and admitted to the intensive care unit where a machine helped her to breathe the first day of her hospital stay. When that stopped working, she was intubated and placed on a ventilator where she remained for nearly a week.

“It attacked her entire system. It started with her lungs, then her kidneys began to shut down, then her liver showed signs of stress,” says Cory. “When her kidneys failed they started her on dialysis and she passed a few hours later.”

Cory and his family couldn’t be at Kelly’s side as she was dying. Rather, they watched her take her last breaths through a window into her ICU room. It’s a heartbreaking reality that Cory never imagined he would experience.

“It’s a shocking thing to go through – it’s been emotionally draining for our family because you spend that week on pins and needles not knowing what is going to happen, with those hours and days dragging by as you wait for that phone call from the hospital.”

Cory says one of the saddest things about his sister’s death is that it was largely preventable. He is urging people who are hesitant to get vaccinated.

“Do as much research as possible – don’t listen to people filling you full of conspiracy theories and misinformation,” he says. “There are doctors and medical professionals – immunologists, virologists, epidemiologists – people whose careers are built on making sure you are healthy. You should be talking to them and listening to them.”

And, if you won’t do it for yourself, he begs you to do it for others, including those who are immunocompromised or unable to get the vaccine for health reasons. 

“Think also about your family and your community and not just yourself. When someone dies in this sort of horrific way, it impacts so many lives. There are a lot of people who are grieving my sister’s death and devastated over something that was utterly avoidable.”

Cory says that it took this tragic event for some of the unvaccinated people in his life to say they intend to get the shot. 

“It’s just really unfortunate that it took Kelly dying from COVID for them to make that decision. The very last thing I said to her was ‘I know you are in the ICU and I will cut you a break until you go home, but I will be giving you hell about not being vaccinated until you are,” he says. “I meant that. I just wish I was given the opportunity.”