Michelle Lee Carter COVID-19 Memorial Fund

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My mom entered the ER after more than a week of battling what she was advised by medical professionals was the flu. During that time, she had two telemedicine appointments but could not get access to a COVID test. Her physicians advised that her symptoms did not suggest COVID-19 and thus they had no sense of urgency in accessing a test. At that time, we did not question her or them. The pandemic was new.  People were being told not to wear masks and that COVID was not a threat. Despite this messaging, my mom asked my sister and I where to get a mask so that she could protect herself at work, which is the only place she went. We did not have any to give, as it was hard for even frontline workers to get the supplies they needed. After more than a week of feeling ill, my mom began to experience what she called a “breathing attack”. She began to develop a severe shortness in her breath. She calmly sent a text to inform my sister and I, and proceeded to drive herself to the ER, fully capable and coherent. Once at the ER, my mom tested positive for COVID-19, and was told that she had severe pneumonia, onset by the virus, that was progressing quickly. Less than 24 hours later, the supplemental oxygen provided was no longer enough and she was immediately transferred to the ICU and put on a ventilator. The only treatment at the time was hydroxychloroquine, which she was given throughout her treatment. We waited patiently for our one call a day from the hospital to give us news we hoped was better than the previous. Good news came -- my mom was showing signs of improvement and was able to respond to the nurse’s commands by squeezing their hands -- we were hopeful for a turnaround. The next day, she developed more complications. It became more taxing for her body to fight the virus raging inside her. She was experiencing severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a relentless fever, falling blood pressure and consequently organ failure from lack of oxygen. Despite the use of blood pressure medications and other possible remedies, she continued to decline until her body gave way to eternal peace on April 7th, 2020. Given the beast that this pandemic is, my sister and I were not able to visit her or say our proper goodbyes. All we have is a selfie my mom took while wearing a mask in the ER. She was only 53. 

My mom, Michelle Lee Carter or “Shelly”, was enjoying one of the happiest stages of her life after recently landing her dream job: mentoring and supporting struggling teenage girls at a local boarding school. The girls looked up to her as a guiding figure. She always came home excited to tell stories about her students’ accomplishments, showing us pictures of the murals they had painted as if she were a proud mom hanging the photo on the fridge, or go out of her way to help these girls as her own. For instance, she noticed one of the girls only had one pair of jeans and they were plagued by holes. She went on a hunt to find someone of the same size with jeans to donate. It just so happened that I wore the same size and after a twelve hour day, she drove thirty minutes out of town to pick up the extra jeans, ecstatic to be making the positive impact she could. Being a mom was her favorite; she was a natural caregiver and leader. Outside of work, she was best friends with my sister Kristen and me and defended us bravely. She loved us fiercely and taught us to be fighters just as she was throughout her life to the very end. Her greatest joy was spending time getting to know her two year old grandson, Mac, with whom she spent as many waking moments as possible. She was also a big sister to three siblings, whom she guarded and mentored while growing up in her beloved hometown of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. She looked after them as adults too, despite the physical distance that came once she settled in Round Rock, Texas. She was an extremely outgoing woman who loved people above all else, always putting them before herself. Even in her low times like when she was in the earlier days of her sickness, she mistakenly texted me instead of her sister to check in on extended family members that are frontline workers as she was worried for them. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind or be serious, but she was also well known for her spunky energy and willingness to be silly. She was a friend to so many, always seeming to have enough time in the day to keep up with everybody she'd encountered. From her time growing up in Massachusetts and Oklahoma, to leading Women's Bible Study, Campfire Girls, and being super involved within the school and church in her daughters upbringing in Texas - she stayed connected to those she met along the way in every way she could. She wasn’t  just a "hey how's it going, friend?", but someone who remembered everything you told them, prayed for you, fought for you, and would spend her last $20 on you to brighten your day. When I went through her belongings, I found an extensive collection of drugstore type greeting cards, further evidence of her thoughtfulness, sentimentality, and preparedness. I’d like to think she thought of me and my sister when she read some of the cards. 

Due to the world’s current state of pause and isolation, I don’t know when the reality of my mom’s death will truly sink in. Not being able to see or even hear her while sick makes this all feel that much more dreamlike. But of course, the dream is a nightmare. The virus spread so quickly, that she didn’t have time to download a video-chatting app to communicate with us before being sedated for the ventilator. I constantly find myself wondering if and hoping that she understood why we couldn’t be there. Wondering if she knew she would be dying alone. Wondering if she knew how desperately we wished we could be there for her. Since her passing, we have also been unable to properly grieve with our family or make the service arrangements our mom would have wanted. She was the most selfless and generous woman I have and will likely ever know. I do not know when it will be safe to have a proper service for her, but I feel like she deserves the world. Without the closure of a service on the immediate horizon, I felt inclined to set up a memorial fund in her honor. 

Her workplace has set up a scholarship fund in her honor. Though she was only there for a few months, her impact was greater. I would like to use the support from this GoFundMe to contribute to her namesake scholarship fund to help the girls she held so closely in her heart. Some additional funds will also help with taking care of her funeral and attorney fees. My mom died well before her time and did not have a proper will.  

I do not want my mom to become just another COVID-19 statistic. No human should ever have to endure what this virus has caused. This is a pain known by way too many around the country and world as the virus has claimed countless fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, children and friends. Every “number”, someone loved as deeply as her. I wish my family could mourn together in person. I cannot wait for the day when we can all be together again as a family, both here on earth and elsewhere reunited with my mother. However, until that day I will continue to fight for her, love her, and carry her with me.  

Thank you for the outreach of love and compassion. I hope she knows how much she was dearly loved by everyone who knew her.

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