Beloved 74-year-old who loved dancing and music lost to COVID in days

·3 min read

April McCormack was always passionate about health, urging people to get vaccines and never missing a chance to belly dance, disco or waltz at the care centre where she spent her final year.

When the vegan senior was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, she fought it hard. So, her family held out hope she'd beat COVID-19.

But the 74-year-old died on Nov. 26, just eight days after first feeling fatigued, two weeks into an outbreak at the Belvedere Care Centre where she lived.

"We had some glimmer of hope because my mother was a fighter," said McCormack's eldest daughter, September Stokes.

September Stokes/submitted
September Stokes/submitted

She's sharing her mother's story so people realize that COVID-19 is real and refusing to wear a mask or take precautions can have a devastating effect on others.

"She loved to zoom around with her walker to Bruno Mar's 'Uptown Funk.' It was her favourite," said Stokes.

When she first heard that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 she said she was "terrified."

She says her mother never left the centre where she lived in Coquitlam for the past year-and-a-half.

"COVID was in there. She knew it. It spread through there really fast," said Stokes.

McCormack was diabetic and had an autoimmune disease but you'd never know it, her family said. She ate a plant-based diet for 15 years and loved exercise.

September Stokes/submitted
September Stokes/submitted

After testing postive for COVID Nov. 20, Stokes said her mother went from "happy and smiling" to unable to breathe in days.

"It hit really fast," said Stokes.

"[COVID-19] is real and it's not something you can just say I'm young I'll get over it. You don't know what impact you are going to have."

Stokes said her step father Rob McCormack had cared for her mother at their 20-year home in Port Moody after the diagnosis of Parkinson's 11 years ago.

But the Parkinson's symptoms became unmanageable, so she moved to a care home.

"When COVID first started we were like, we need to get her out of there. Care homes are being hit the worst."

More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in B.C. have been linked to long-term care homes. As of Sept. 10, 2020, there have been 156 deaths related to B.C. care facilities, according to public health data collected by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Stokes praises the centre where her mother lived for its efforts to prevent the virus spreading. She said her family trusted that her mother was safe and could not provide the intense 24-hour care she needed, as her Parkinson's progressed.

September Stokes/submitted
September Stokes/submitted

Her family says she seemed to thrive there, sending them videos of herself dancing or in her favourite hat.

Family only saw McCormack through a window or via video chat. Caregivers wore full protective gear.

But she became ill, first feeling fatigue on Nov. 18. By Nov. 22, family were trying to help get her to eat, and she was admitted to hospital on the 23rd. Three days later, she was gone.

"After everything she fought through — it's shocking how fast it happened," said Stokes.

She said her mother had four children and three grandchildren who dubbed her "Gaga."

"She was fiercely independent, tough as nails, sweet as honey, and she loved our family more than anything," reads her obituary, where her husband described their 34 years of marriage as an "adventure."

April McCormack/Facebook
April McCormack/Facebook