With Thanksgiving approaching, Durham man reflects on losing his mother to COVID-19


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 5,000 people in North Carolina have died from COVID-19 this year. As many families sit down for Thanksgiving this week, in many homes across the state there will be one fewer person at the table.

Chris Harward said the holiday will not be the same this year for his family, as it will be the first Thanksgiving without his mother, Judy Harward.

“When you look back on it, it’s hard sometimes because there’s going be an empty chair at the table,” Harward said.

It was in mid-March when the 76-year-old Harward started feeling ill.

“The day I went over there, I knew something must be wrong,” Chris Harward said. “She had a fever and major confusion.”

They had called an ambulance. When first responders arrived, they were not sure what to do because there were concerns she might have COVID-19.

“Being that it was so new and they really didn’t know what to do, they kind of stayed outside and waited until they got word of what they needed to do and how they should handle transporting her to the hospital,” Harward said.

His mother was transported to the hospital. She tested positive for COVID-19 three days later.

“Her health started declining, and once it hit one organ it started affecting another organ,” Harward said.

She was eventually put on life support and over the course of a couple of weeks, things continued to get worse.

“That was the hard part of just getting those reports and that things didn’t look better. Things were getting a little worse and it was kind of going downhill,” Harward said.

After two and a half weeks, they took her off life support and she died on April 3. She was the first woman in Durham to die from COVID-19.

“I actually never saw her after I put her on the ambulance. That’s the hard part,” Harward said.

It has been eight months and the number of cases in North Carolina is still high. He said every time he hears about another COVID-19 death on the news, he thinks of his mother.

“It’s a reminder that it’s out there and everyone needs to do their part,” Harward said.

This Thanksgiving, he said his message to the community is for everyone to take the virus seriously and, hopefully, save lives.

“Everyone needs to be careful right now and be thankful for what you have,” Harward said. “Those memories that you have is what keeps me going day by day.”

Since Judy Harward died, 108 other people in Durham County have also died from COVID-19, according to the Durham County Department of Public Health.

Recent data also shows there have been 10,790 COVID-19 cases reported in Durham County this year.

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