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After Losing Mother, Grandfather To COVID-19, Woman Asks Everyone To Do Their Part

Lindsay Wootton's mother, Tracy Larsen, and grandfather, Bert Porter, were able to see each other during a special visit arranged by the ICU. Both of them died of COVID-19.
Lindsay Wootton's mother, Tracy Larsen, and grandfather, Bert Porter, were able to see each other during a special visit arranged by the ICU. Both of them died of COVID-19.

Ahead of a typically joyful holiday season with her two young kids, Lindsay Wootton, 34, is dreading her first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her mother.

Wootton's mom and grandfather died of COVID-19 last month at a hospital in Orem, Utah.

Wootton's 56-year-old mother, Tracy Larsen, was a paraprofessional who worked with special needs children. She "dedicated everything she did to helping others," all while keeping her good spirits, Wootton said in an interview with All Things Considered.

"My mom was the life of the party," she said.

Tracy Larsen plays with her grandkids, Braylin (middle) and Dreyson (right).
/ Lindsay Wootton
Tracy Larsen plays with her grandkids, Braylin (middle) and Dreyson (right).

Minutes after Wootton was told that her mother wouldn't survive COVID-19, she learned that her 80-year-old grandpa, Bert Porter, also wouldn't make it. Porter died within the hour.

Porter, Larsen's father, was a "sweet, sweet man" and "the hardest worker of anyone I ever met," Wootton said.

"I wish, I wish that people can look into their heart and listen to what's being asked," she said. "Wear masks, limit your gatherings. Let's limit it to preserve our families."

Utah's hospitalizations for the coronavirus have quadrupled in the last two months, according to the state's department of health. The state is averaging more than 3,100 new positive test results each day.

Public health officials say hospital capacity across the state is at a breaking point. Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert issued new public health restrictions to help stem the surge in cases and address the strain on the health care system.

Wootton's father, Chad Larsen, also contracted COVID-19 after he was initially hospitalized for a shingles outbreak in his ear canal. She's not sure how her mom and dad were infected with the coronavirus, but she suspects they could have been exposed while he was being treated on the floor where the hospital kept COVID-19 patients.

"We have wondered, because my mom spent some time with him there at the hospital, if maybe they were both infected there," she said.

Her dad continues to fight the lingering effects of the disease.

"It's been a struggle both physically and emotionally, of course," Wootton said. "My mom was his everything."

Chad Larsen, Wootton's father, stands for the first time in over a month. Larsen contracted COVID-19 after he was initially hospitalized for something else.
/ Lindsay Wootton
Chad Larsen, Wootton's father, stands for the first time in over a month. Larsen contracted COVID-19 after he was initially hospitalized for something else.

Before her mother's death, her parents celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary in the hospital. Wootton and her sister managed to help them make it special.

"My sister and I both knew they weren't able to give each other special gifts this year and that was something they always treasured, is giving each other a memorable gift," she said.

As a gift to give from her mom to her dad, Wootton had a photo of her parents — taken back when they were dating — enlarged and framed.

"I picked a really special photo frame that said, 'I love you,' and I got a card. It was the last time my mom ever got to write a love note to my dad. Little did we know that, four days later, my mom would pass away."

Gustavo Contreras, Lauren Hodges and Christopher Intagliata produced this interview for broadcast.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.