A single mother in Alabama is raising 12 children after taking care of her five nieces and nephews whose parents have died of the coronavirus.
For Francesca McCall, 40, the decision to add five children to her existing brood of seven was easy after her younger sister Chantale passed away from the virus on September 16, followed by her brother-in-law, Lance Martin, a month later. .
She said she and Chantale had made a promise long ago to take care of each other’s children if something happened to one of them, so when the unthinkable happened, she was ready to get up.
Now the blended family of 13 – with children between the ages of one and 17 – settles into their new normal at McCall’s home in Birmingham.
“We’re just going to try and educate them as best we can,” McCall said WBRC.
Francesca McCall is raising 12 children on her own after her younger sister Chantale (pictured together) died of the coronavirus in September, leaving behind five children
Nine children in the McCall’s new mixed family are seen together in a photo posted to Facebook by Francesca. Each child wears a shirt in honor of Chantale
The McCall family’s world was in turmoil in September when Chantale was diagnosed with COVID-19 and ended up in a hospital in Selma, where she lived with her husband Martin and their children.
McCall said her sister’s condition quickly deteriorated before she was transferred to a larger hospital in Birmingham, where she was placed on a ventilator before succumbing to the virus.
“Doctors called us to say goodbye, and I told her not to worry,” McCall said.
“I would make sure I would take care of her children. I know she would do that for me. ‘
“Looks like it’s not real,” McCall added. “We just expect her to come back.”
Five weeks after his wife, Martin also died of the virus on October 25, on what would have been Chantale’s 35th birthday.
Miraculously, none of the couple’s family members tested positive for the virus during that time, even though McCall, her mother, and her children had all stayed with Chantale for a week before she was diagnosed.
Francesca is seen with her biological children, who are now settling into life with their five cousins
McCall said the family is still reeling from the deaths weeks later as they prepare for their first vacation without two cherished faces.
It was especially a challenge for the children of Chantale and Martin, who also had to say goodbye to their hometown.
“ Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they break down, so they have their days and moments, ” McCall said CNN of her nieces and nephews.
“It has been very difficult to lose their friends, church family, and basically everything that is dear to them.”
The family also struggles with some space constraints as they try to fit in a home that’s meant for six people.
“We have all the boys in one room and we have all the girls in the other two rooms, so everyone is kind of like each other,” McCall said.
“We made the most of the situation.”
The family struggles with some space constraints as they try to fit into a home that’s meant for six people. ‘We have all the boys in one room and we have all the girls in the other two rooms, so everyone just sits on top of each other,’ McCall said
McCall said she worked from home to keep an eye on the kids who are virtually attending school, and that her mother came to help for the time being.
“It’s a little chaotic sometimes getting everyone online for school and feeding them before they go to school,” she told CNN. “Once you get them up and situated them, it’s okay.”
McCall also receives a helping hand from her church and other members of the community who have been inspired by the strength she has shown in becoming a mother of 12 almost overnight.
Family friends have one GoFundMe campaign to provide financial support, which has already raised more than $ 262,500 Thursday afternoon.
‘She loves these children with all those children [her] heart, ”Carla McDonald, a church member who helped organize GoFundMe, told CNN.
‘She’s not the one asking for help. She’s just trying to raise 12 children and not just provide for their daily needs at Christmas. ‘
McCall said she was amazed at the support of the community in such difficult times and told the outlet, “I really appreciate it.”
She said she’s planning a special celebration for the holidays, including a balloon release in honor of Chantale memory.
“Our plan for Christmas is to celebrate my sister’s life and the legacy she leaves behind,” McCall said.
She also hopes that her story can convince other families to take the coronavirus threat seriously – especially since her sister, who worked for a home care agency, was very careful and still fell ill.
“She’s taken every precaution,” McCall told WBRC. She was wearing the mask. She was wearing the gloves. She was very, very careful, so we have no idea how she got in touch. ‘
“It’s real,” she said of the virus. “It’s serious and take the necessary precautions.”
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