CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some of the most vulnerable in this fight against COVID-19 are our healthcare workers. Certified Nursing Assistant Dana Vega died back in August, just a matter of days after she started experiencing Coronavirus symptoms.
Friday, on the day of what should have been her 50th birthday, co-workers and family members gathered to celebrate how much she was loved.
"I think her birthday was really special to her so she would have loved seeing all this," said Julia Vega, Dana's oldest daughter.
Dana Vega spent 21 of her nearly 50 years working at Spring Meadows Healthcare Center in Clarksville. Her co-workers tell NewsChannel 5, her role as a caregiver didn't end with her shift.
"On her time away from work, she did things for residents, and made things for residents and made meals for residents," said Andrea Batson, a former co-worker of Dana's.
"She really did treat everyone like family, she would refer to people as mama and daddy," said Julia.
If you'd like to help support Julia and Madison, a GoFundMe has been set up in their honor. You can access it here.
She would often buy lunches and dinners for some of the residents at Spring Meadows using her own money, off the clock, all while raising her two daughters Julia and Madison on her own. "She was a helper and wanted to help out," said Madison Wiltz, Dana's youngest daughter.
Back in August, Dana wasn't feeling well. An initial COVID test came back negative, but the symptoms never went away, so Julia drove in from Nashville to check in on her mother. "She was her normal self. She sounded like my normal mom. She was sassy, joking laughing. She just went a couple hours later," said Julia.
Dana died later that night. Testing eventually revealed, she died from COVID-19.
"I have heard a lot people just joke about this and say it’s a scam, but it’s real, we lost our mother," said Julia.
Julia is now raising her younger sister. She's moved her into her home in Nashville, enrolled her in MNPS and even let her decorate her own room. "It’s definitely been a big adjustment - at 26 years old I didn’t think I’d have a teenager," Julia admitted.
But the hope is, Julia won't have to take on this responsibility alone. During Spring Meadow's celebration of Dana's life, several co-workers vowed to help both girls with whatever needs they may have.
"We loved her, and we do love you," Jennifer Robinson, the administrator for Spring Meadows, told the crowd gathered at the facility.
The celebration for Dana ended with biodegradable balloons being released to the skies, but that won't end Dana's legacy at the facility.
"She’s never going to be forgotten in this facility. Ever," vowed Andrea Batson.