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Alabama woman now raising 12 children after losing sister and brother-in-law to COVID-19

Alabama woman now raising 12 children after losing sister and brother-in-law to COVID-19

"We are just expecting her to come back. She was in the healthcare field and she did all the precautions."

Francesca McCall and her sister Chantale had always promised to take care of each other's kids if anything ever happened to either of them. Now, the Birmingham resident is keeping her word by welcoming her sister's five children into her home to raise with seven of her own kids. McCall suddenly became a single mom of 12 after Chantale and her brother-in-law succumbed to COVID-19 within months of each other. "It just seems like it’s not real," she told WBRC. "We are just expecting her to come back. She was in the healthcare field and she did all the precautions."

 



 

 

"She wore the mask. She wore the gloves. She was very very careful, so we have no idea how she came into contact," McCall added. She said that 35-year-old Chantale was doing well when she was first hospitalized in Selma — where she lives — after testing positive for the novel Coronavirus. However, she was taken to a Birmingham hospital and put on a ventilator when her condition worsened and she began having trouble breathing. She died two weeks later on September 16, reports CNN. "Doctors called us in to say our last goodbyes and I told her she didn't have to worry," McCall said. "I was going to make sure that I took care of her kids. I know that is what she would do for me."

 



 

 

"We always said that we didn't want our kids to be separated. We wanted our kids to stay together," the 40-year-old added. The 12 children range in age from 1 to 17 and as you can imagine, housing a dozen children in one house comes with quite a few challenges. "We have all the boys in one room and we have all the girls in the other two rooms, so everybody's kind of just on top of one another," said McCall. "So we've been making the best out of the situation."

 



 

 

"They have their days. I don’t think it’s really hit them yet, so it’s just a process," she added. Two months after the children lost their mother, Chantale's husband Rance Martin passed away from the disease on October 25; which would have been Chantale's 35th birthday. McCall revealed that she, her mother, and children had stayed with Chantale the weekend before she tested positive for COVID-19 and that although Martin had been in and out of the hospital, they didn't know he had the virus until later.

 



 

 

Fortunately, despite their close contact, the rest of the family tested negative for the virus. McCall explained that although the kids are holding up, losing their parents has been hard for them — especially now, during the holidays. "They're doing okay at times and at times they break down, so they're having their days and their moments," she said. "It's been very hard losing their friends, church family, and basically everything that's held dear to them." The children are all attending school virtually right now and aren't eager to go to school in person as they don't want to risk getting COVID-19 or spreading it to someone else.

 



 

 

Francesca works from home now to help them with their virtual learning and her mother is staying with her to help out. "It's a little chaotic at times, trying to get everybody online for school and getting them fed before they get in school. Once you get them up and get them situated it's okay," she said. "The kids are so smart and clever," said family friend Raven McDonald. "They are so funny. Their ability to uplift each other and put a smile on each other's faces is just unmatched. The family is always caring, loving, and smiling." Carla McDonald, who's with the church, explained that McCall "is not the one to ask for assistance from anyone" and that "she is just trying to raise 12 children and meet their everyday needs not only for Christmas."

 



 

 

McDonald helped create a GoFundMe campaign for the family, which has raised over $300,211 so far. "I really, really appreciate it," said McCall, adding that they're going to have a Christmas balloon release in Chantale's memory. "Our plan for Christmas is celebrating my sister's life and her legacy she leaves behind."

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