Jenn Garson Sinclair struggled mightily with health issues from birth, but wasn’t about to surrender to COVID-19 without a fight.
"She had a zest for life even though she went through all these battles. But she fought and she fought, right to the last breath. That’s why I always said to her, ‘Thank you, my girl. Thank you for fighting,’" Conrad Garson said late Tuesday.
His daughter died at 12:15 a.m. Monday at St. Boniface Hospital, 20 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Just 38, she is the youngest Manitoban to succumb to the virus.
"I wouldn’t want any other family to go through what we went through," said Conrad. "Jenn had the greatest support system behind her, and it wasn’t just me and her mom (Linda Garson), it was her aunties and uncles and friends. The doctors and nurses knew the support behind Jenn and were encouraging her every day to fight this virus.
"You wouldn’t believe how many people loved her. We’ve gotten so many phone calls, texts and emails. My girl was a very caring, gentle and humble individual."
Originally from Fisher River Cree Nation, Jenn had underlying health conditions and a weakened immune system that increased her risk of contracting the coronavirus. She was born with a hole in her heart, and that led to recurring medical issues throughout her childhood and into adulthood.
In 2013, she contracted the H1N1 virus, which caused permanent lung damage that required her to be on oxygen full time.
Jenn had lived in Winnipeg in the last few years but spent about six months in her home community earlier this year to be closer to family. She was fighting an ailment at Percy E. Moore Hospital in nearby Hodgson, when she had to be transferred to St. Boniface on Sept. 25 for more extensive treatment.
An outbreak was declared at the hospital on unit B5 on Oct. 23, the third outbreak at St. Boniface in about 10 days.
"She got tested a few times but they all came back negative. The last test was Oct. 27 when she tested positive," Conrad said. "I was very worried from Day 1, but I had a lot of hope for my daughter."
Earlier in the month, Jenn had made great strides and was set to be discharged. Doctors had approved a plan in which she would return to the Interlake community with her husband of four years, Logan Wade.
"We almost got her home, but then there was a situation in hospital when she had to have one more sleep apnea test. During the night, she fell out of bed and banged her head, and from there she just deteriorated... a step backward, a step backward," said Conrad. "Then she got COVID."
Linda said the last time she stood next to her daughter’s hospital bed was on Oct. 14, two days before an outbreak forced a lockdown. But the couple would park on Tache Avenue, outside the hospital, each day and chat with Jenn via FaceTime.
"We stayed in Winnipeg just for her to know we were here. We would park near the hospital every day, chat with her and pray for her," Linda said.
The hospital made arrangements for her parents to be present in an adjacent room late Sunday night, watching through a window as their daughter lived her final moments.
"They went above and beyond to treat her. She was so well taken care of. We were so blessed to have such wonderful nurses and doctors taking care of her," said Linda. "They are heroes. We told them that over and over."
Jenn and Logan had no children of their own but she loved and doted on her niece and two nephews, said her aunt, Cindy Garson.
"She had a heart of gold," she said. "She was taking programs (with Equal Opportunities West) when her health allowed, in Winnipeg. She wanted to work with children. She loved kids."
A small funeral, in keeping with provincial health restrictions, is set for Thursday in Fisher River. It’s important to the family that the advice of Manitoba’s health experts is heeded, even in times of mourning.
"It’s important for people to follow the fundamentals, to adhere to the restrictions that have been put in place. Even just getting her buried, we have to follow those guidelines and it’s pretty hard on the family to know we can’t have a typical funeral," said Cindy. "But my brother (Conrad) has said he doesn’t want anyone else that he loves affected by COVID."
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