NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. -- A family is grieving the death of one of their own after his life was claimed by COVID-19. Now, they're urging everyone to get vaccinated.
Dianne Hudson said she and her husband Donnie were two of many of Virginians hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We were like many people, and we had not been vaccinated," said Dianne. "For one, we thought we were pretty healthy. Our son had it back in December, and he was sick for like three days. So we thought, you know, we can beat this if we were to get it."
But 50-year-old Donnie started feeling sick on July 31.
"On the third day, when I got home from work, he said, I think I need to go to the ER," Dianne explained.
Doctors at Chippenham Hospital told her Donnie’s oxygen levels were low, and he tested positive for COVID-19.
"At that point we thought, okay, he'll be in the hospital a couple days, and then he'll be on his way home," Dianne noted.
But Donnie's health rapidly declined.
On day 13 of his stay at Chippenham Hospital, doctors recommended he be put on a ventilator and gave him a 20% chance of survival.
"After a couple of days on the ventilator, things just got worse," said Dianne. "And at that point, the family had to make a decision -- the most horrific decision that I hope that we ever have to make.”
Donnie didn’t make it, leaving behind his wife, his son and an entire community grieving the loss of the well-respected family man.
"I...don't want to paint a grim picture about the COVID, but it is for real," Dianne explained. "You see on TV people dying, and you think that's not going to happen around here. Yes, it will happen.”
Before Donnie passed, he had a request for his wife.
"When he got out, he was going to talk to everybody about this COVID vaccine," she noted. "Which is a big step for us because we were like so many. And we were like, no, we're not going to get it."
Dozens in the Nottoway County community have now gotten vaccinated in honor of Donnie.
"I went through a time when I was like, God, why did you take you know, my loved one for this," said Dianne. "But I can't even tell you how many people now that he has probably saved their lives."
While Dianne grieves, she said she finds comfort and hope knowing her husband is in Heaven, and she’s helping protect others by sharing his story.
"That makes me feel good because I know that's what Donnie would have wanted me to do," she explained.
Dianne also had to make the tough decision of canceling Donnie’s memorial service because she didn't want anyone else to potentially be exposed to COVID-19 at the service.
Another big step -- her son gets his first dose of the vaccine Thursday. Dianne plans to get hers in 90 days when she is eligible since she tested positive for the virus after her husband got sick.