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Remembering Tennessee Health Care Worker Who Died Of The Coronavirus

NOEL KING, HOST:

We continue now remembering people who have died of COVID-19, more than 220,000 in the U.S. Dana Vega was a nursing assistant in Clarksville, Tenn. She was an Army veteran and a single mom to two girls, a 14-year-old and a 26-year-old, Julia Vega.

JULIA VEGA: She did little things to make people smile. Crocheting was one of her hobbies. And she would make blankets for everyone. You know, if a new baby was going to come into the world, she would make a baby blanket.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Julia Vega says her mom cared for residents of Spring Meadows nursing home in Clarksville for 21 years. She'd sometimes work on her days off to do things like give home care for a man with paralysis.

VEGA: She lost her parents when she was really young. And so at the nursing home, she constantly referred to people as mama and daddy 'cause a lot of them at the nursing home - they didn't have family.

KING: For her, COVID came on quickly. It seemed like a cold. She got tested on a Friday, and it was negative. And then she got retested that Tuesday.

VEGA: And then she died the next day. I was talking to my mom that morning. And she seemed very fine, was sassy. I know she was talking with people from work 'cause she is, like - she can't stay away from work. And then seven hours later, she was gone. And then the next morning, we found out that she was positive for COVID.

INSKEEP: The disease led to a blood clot in her mother's lungs. Julia tried to resuscitate her.

VEGA: I hate it. But my sister - she was the one who found our mother and then woke me up because I was taking a nap at the time. Even at the time, I was just like, she's going to wake up. And I just did everything I could. Yeah, it took a while to realize that she was gone.

KING: Eventually, Julia planned a funeral, got custody of her sister and packed up her mom's house. She's had a lot of support from family and friends. And she can feel her mom's legacy in this responsibility she's taken on.

VEGA: Seeing my mom, you know, be a single parent, she just had a really good work ethic. So I think that trickled down to me so that I can always provide for myself. And now I have to provide for my sister. But also, she just showed me how important it is to be kind to people. And people were so willing to love on me and my sister. And it's just reflective of how amazing she was as a person.

INSKEEP: Dana Vega died in August, one month before her 50th birthday.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLDMUND'S "TURNS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.