Priscilla and David Morse thought their daughter had a stomach bug, or was perhaps experiencing health symptoms related to her special needs. Less than a day later, six-year-old Gigi died from Covid-19.
“I don’t even know if I am coping with it yet. I wake up every day, and I just try to get through the day. Everything is just — I have to get through this day,” Priscilla said.
The Morse family adopted Gigi from Ukraine when she was three, rescuing her from an orphanage where she was mistreated, at times being tied to a bed and force-fed food. But Gigi would flourish with her new family in Tennessee.
“It was kind of a soul connection kind of thing. She was a very sweet child, but she had a lot of behavioral stuff going on. So she was a little difficult sometimes,” Priscilla explained, adding “but it never bothered me. I dug deep and found patience that I didn’t even know existed, because that’s what she needed. And we just connected.”
In August Gigi developed a peculiar rash, and began vomiting. Now considered telltale signs of Covid-19 in children, at the time the symptoms didn’t raise any flags.
“She was running around the doctor’s office. She was drinking slushies. She had a normal temperature,” her mom explained. “It was just one of those things that you would not associate that with Covid… at the time, we were told she’s got a stomach bug. Take her home. Let her eat some popsicles, get some rest.”
So the Morses did just that, putting Gigi down for a nap before quickly hustling out for refreshments in an effort to keep their daughter hydrated.
“We… went to the store to get popsicles and I came home to two ambulances, fire trucks, police cars in front of my house. And my daughter dead,” Priscilla revealed.
In July, both David and Priscilla contracted Covid-19, and the family – which also included an 18-year-old and 11-year-old – quarantined accordingly. It was Gigi’s older siblings who found their sister, ultimately contacting 911 and starting CPR.
“They could not have been any more perfect in trying to help their sister. They’re just amazing kids,” said David.
Six months since Gigi’s passing, her family now balances painful feelings of blame, guilt and loss.
“Every single person feels like, ‘what could I have done differently?’ And I don’t know of anyone who could have done anything differently,” Priscilla said.
“At least it happened in a family. She was honored when she passed. She has people who miss her … Gigi, she just took to being in a family. She was everyone’s favorite. She was the light of my life.”