Family uses walkie-talkie to say goodbye to mom dying of coronavirus

Sundee Rutter was 42 and recovering from breast cancer when she died of COVID-19, leaving her six children parentless. Sundee Rutter/Facebook

A Washington state family was forced to say their final goodbye to their mom using a walkie-talkie after she contracted the novel coronavirus.

Sundee Rutter was recovering from a battle with breast cancer when she was diagnosed with the illness currently sweeping through the U.S. and around the world.

In quarantine and away from her family, she was forced to say farewell to her six children using a walkie-talkie propped up against her pillow.

“I told her I love her … She shouldn’t worry about the kids,” her son Elijah Ross-Rutter, 20, told BuzzFeed News.

Rutter, a 42-year-old single mother, died on March 16. Her kids watched her from a smaller window looking into her hospital room, the publication says.

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The Marysville, Wash., woman was recovering from a year-long cancer battle before her diagnosis of COVID-19. She was isolated and her kids weren’t able to be by her side anymore.

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Ross-Rutter said his mom visited Providence Regional Medical Centre in Everett, Wash., on March 3. The first known COVID-19 case in the U.S. was treated there, per local radio station KOMO News.

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“She thought she had the flu, probably,” Ross-Rutter said. “It was kind of hard for us to understand how she could get it because not that many people had it around here.”

At first, doctors thought she had pneumonia, but the next day, she tested positive for COVID-19, he explained.

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“When I got the news of her, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is not something to play with, this is serious,’ and now my outlook is different,” a family friend, Jessica Harris, told KOMO News.

On March 12, Rutter texted her son saying she felt “much better,” but took a turn for the worse and died four days later, Ross-Rutter told Buzzfeed.

Rutter’s oldest child, 24-year-old Tyree Rutter, is using the donations of more than US$285,000 to secure housing for himself and his siblings.

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“Sundee was an absolutely amazing mom and instilled only the utmost of values in her children,” the GoFundMe, started by Carrie Frederickson, reads. “I have never known a group of siblings who stick together and take care of one another as much as these kids do.”

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Her children, ages 13 to 24, lost their father in 2012.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.


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