The joy-filled trip to Florida’s Disney Land still makes Natasha McClendon smile with delight, as she recalls how her baby brother treated their family.
The Make – A- Wish Foundation wanted to grant Andre T. Mathews with his fondest desire, so they sent the family on a seven day trip to Disney Land in 2006.
“We went in December, and my children were one and four-years-old,” said Big Sister Natasha. “They flew us out, and he took pictures with Pluto and my oldest child. He was a real uncle to my children,” she recalled.
Today she tugs at the glass box that holds Andre’s remains, as he was remembered in a memorial service. He was just 34 years old. This week, the family gathers again for her cousin’s funeral service, while she navigates care for her father, who is alive and fighting for his life in rehab. Her young cousin, Nyla Moore, 22 years-old, grabbed headlines from CBS News, as she leaves behind a toddler.
The key element is that they all had and have COVID-19, and her life has been spinning in circles for the last two months.
Natasha is a wife, mother, caretaker for her father, and a member of community organizations. However, family always comes first for her, and just handling her relative’s situations have been critical. Constantly on the move, she was unaware that her brother’s prior health conditions would advance so quickly.
“I raised him since he was born. My mother worked nights, so I was the one at home with him. He always bounced back, even after having a kidney removed,” said Natasha.
Andre also had asthma all of his life, but it did not stop him from being “normal,” said his sister. He ran track in high school and participated in Special Olympics’ since elementary school. What he was really known for was dancing and entertaining his classmates and family members with his sleek moves.
“Despite health challenges, he was the life of the party! He would dance with everyone on the floor,” she said.” He went for his asthma treatments every two months, but when he started complaining that he could not breathe, Natasha became concerned.
“The hospital put him on oxygen for two weeks. He didn’t even know that he had COVID-19,” she said.”The advice I would give now is to act on whatever the problem is right away. We knew he had an appointment coming up. Do not sit around, waiting for a possibility of something to happen.” she said.
Her youngest brother was released from the hospital on April 8th and died on April 13th. After a Go Fund Me request, his service was held on May 2nd.
“His manager and colleagues are in shock,” said Natasha, who explained that her brother worked at Jewel’s (a mainstream grocery store) for six years. The absence of Andre’s presence really hurts financially because he supported their mother with his earnings.
“My mother’s social security check paid for her rent, and Andre’s check covered her gas, lights, water, and food. We have not figured out what to do yet,” she said.
Her cousin also suffered from asthma and had breathing problems for three weeks before she learned that she had COVID-19. She died on a ventilator on May 1st. She has a two-year-old son left to raise.
Natasha said her cousin wanted to become an educator and was a very quiet woman.
And finally, her father is holding on to a glimmer of hope. After 22 days in the hospital, he was transferred to rehab. Her dad has suffered two heart attacks and two strokes. However, recently he was readmitted to the hospital.
“The hospital points the finger at the rehab facility for dad’s COVID, and the facility blames the hospital. We are still getting down to the bottom of where it originated from,” said Natasha. The family is staying prayed up and focused on God’s healing hands for a miracle.
If anyone in Illinois feels compelled to assist the family, Natasha’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.