Paramedic to reunite with son in hospice care
Supporters have raised enough money for Paramedic Kendall Whitaker to take time off work to reunite with her immunocompromised son
Heather Crawford, First Coast News
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The decision to go back to work last week was not an easy one for Kendall Whitaker.
As a paramedic working in the emergency room at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville it meant she would be coming in contact with those who may have COVID-19. That meant she would not be able to take care of her 5-year-old son, Easton Whitaker, who is receiving hospice care and battling congenative heart failure.
"Easton is very immunocompromised because of him being a heart transplant patient, and his heart is very fragile," Kendall Whitaker said, "The common cold actually put him in the hospital before, and if he were to catch COVID-19 he wouldn't make it."
She took most of March off work to be with her son but with mounting bills she had to return to her job. She sent Easton Whitaker and his 7-year-old brother to stay with their grandparents seven hours away so she wouldn't risk potentially exposing them to the coronavirus.
Todd Lemmon, a nurse who works with Whitaker, started a GoFundMe page to raise enough money for her to be able to stay home and be reunited with her children.
"I never would've imagined the community would come together the way they have," Lemmon said. "There have been some magnanimous gifts, but I am equally impressed with some of the smaller ones, knowing that people are giving out of love from whatever they have."
After First Coast News aired their story last week, donations started pouring in, and in just six days they surpassed their $20,000 goal. Lemmon hopes people will continue to donate to help the Whitakers.
"I've been completely overwhelmed by the support and love I've received from this community," Kendall Whitaker said. "It's just been endless tears here at my house knowing that I won't have to worry about how I'm going to pay any of my bills and I can just focus on and enjoy my time with Easton."
With enough money raised to be able to stay home and pay her bills, Whitaker is now in a 14-day self-quarantine. If she stays symptom-free, she plans to be reunited with Easton and his brother on April 18 and bring them home.
"If it's true that it takes a village to raise a child, I am happy to know that this one big village has come together and poured forth from a unified kindness to do what is necessary to reunite the Whitaker family," Lemmon said.
©2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)