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Grieving Gulfport family warns COVID-19 patients not to wait until it’s too late to get medical help

Friends and family are mourning the loss of 61-year-old David Varnado of Gulfport, who died...
Friends and family are mourning the loss of 61-year-old David Varnado of Gulfport, who died from COVID-19 complications. Now, they want to warn others not to think they are invulnerable to the dangers of the virus.(Destini Varnado)
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 2:22 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, even if you’re healthy. For one South Mississippi family, it’s the unfortunate reality they are now living.

Friends and family are mourning the loss of 61-year-old David Varnado of Gulfport, who died from COVID-19 complications. Now, they want to warn others not to think they are invincible to the dangers of the virus.

According to Varnado’s daughter Destini, he had no underlying health issues and was a relatively healthy man. She says soon after a family trip to Disney World with her mom and brothers, multiple family members tested positive for COVID-19 including her father, even though he didn’t go on the trip.

“My dad started getting sick, and he was just sleeping a lot,” said Destini.

According to his family, David refused to go to the hospital because his wife had recovered from COVID-19 at home and he thought he would, too. That’s when his wife Joni made the decision to call an ambulance.

“He couldn’t breathe for five days, and the only reason he went [to the hospital] was because my mom was helping him go to the bathroom and he was peeing nothing but blood, so his kidneys had shut down,” said Destini.

Friends and family are mourning the loss of 61-year-old David Varnado of Gulfport, who died...
Friends and family are mourning the loss of 61-year-old David Varnado of Gulfport, who died from COVID-19 complications. Now, they want to warn others not to think they are invincible to the dangers of the virus.(Destini Varnado)

With conflicting views on the rollout of the vaccine, David decided against getting vaccinated.

“He’s very stubborn,” said Destini. “You have to push him to do anything that he doesn’t want to do.”

When they arrived at the hospital, doctors told the family that David’s oxygen level had dropped down to 78 percent and he had developed double COVID pneumonia.

“He signed a DNR and said that he didn’t want to be put on a vent,” said Destini. “My brother, who’s older than me, actually talked to my dad and got him to change it.”

A few days being in the hospital, he was sedated and put on a ventilator, which he primarily relied on to breathe.

“He was on dialysis every single day, and he never used the bathroom. It was really hard. You saw him deteriorating quickly,” said Destini. “His platelets had dropped all the way down to 22,000 - the normal range is 150,000. He was really sick. It was just so many things going on that you wouldn’t have imagined because he was so healthy.”

But through it all, the family still had hope.

On August 21st, David lost his battle with COVID-19 and his family says they’ll always remember...
On August 21st, David lost his battle with COVID-19 and his family says they’ll always remember him as a loving man.(Destini Varnado)

“He was going up and down, like he would get better and then he wouldn’t,” said Destini. “A few days before, he was doing well. He wasn’t running a fever, and they were going to do something called a ‘sedation vacation.’ So, they were going to take the sedation off him so he could start breathing on his own.”

Destini said doctors began performing a lung and blood culture, which is a lab exam to check fluid from the lungs for infection-causing germs and fungi in the blood. The results determined that he had a yeast infection in his lungs and bloodstream, and he was in sepsis, said Destini.

At that moment, the Varnado family had to make a life-changing decision.

“My dad has always told us that he didn’t want us to take care of him and that he didn’t want to be on life support. So he had already gone. We were basically making him fight, even though that’s not what he wanted to do,” said Destini.

On August 21, 2021, David lost his battle with COVID-19. David’s family is now left with the many memories of him as a loving husband, father, and all-around good Christian.

According to his family, David refused to go to the hospital because his wife had recovered...
According to his family, David refused to go to the hospital because his wife had recovered from COVID-19 at home and he thought he would, too. That’s when his wife Joni made the decision to call an ambulance.(Destini Varnado)

“He was a very special man,” said Destini. “He met someone at Home Depot who had three kids. He bought him a hotel and gave him a job. That’s just what kind of man he was. He was a servant.”

Now, the Varnados are pleading with anyone who has COVID to be very aware of their health and take immediate action if their breathing gets bad. It could be make the difference between life or death, they say.

“If you get sick and you’re having a hard time, you need to go to the hospital,” said Destini. “We honestly think when my dad first got to a point where he couldn’t breathe and he went to the hospital, he would’ve been fine. He just waited so long that he wasn’t getting oxygen to his brain.”

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