Family denied access to U.S. after relative dies from COVID-19

Priscilla WolfAPTN NewsThe family of a First Nations man from Thunderchild First Nation who died in Everett, Wash., from COVID-19 have been denied access to the U.S. for his funeral.Wayne Thunderchild died April 4 from the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.Raylene Dion, one of his two daughters who lives in Frog Lake, Alta., said her father, who moved to Everett 25 years ago, his wife and brother in law all had mild cold symptoms for two weeks.She said they all tested positive for COVID-19.“I know for sure my father started his first fever around the weekend of march 20th,” she told APTN News. “But his brother in law was sick about a week before that. “My dad his wife and her twin brother they actually all reside in the same apartment her twin brother was sick first but he was diagnosed with bronchitis he had a cough but no fever he couldn’t get out of bed either.“Then my dad got sick he had a fever but no cough and he couldn’t get out of bed. My dads wife, our stepmom, she showed no symptoms other than having no smell or taste. “Thunderchild’s wife and brother-in law are stilling recovering at home.Thunderchild had a medical history that made him vulnerable.“He had diabetes and he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma which was in remission  for the past few years,” said Dion.Thunderchild’s other sister Jocelyn Thunderchild says people need to be safe.“A lot of people aren’t taking it seriously like my sister said it has no remorse on anybody this disease came fast and it was quick to take fast as well from us.”Thunderchild says her dad turned 61 in December and he had told his family his burial plans because of his past health issues.“My dad over the years when he was diagnosed with cancer he started talking about if anything were to happen and he made it known that if anything were to ever happen he wanted to be crematedregardless.”Thunderchild says her father always put family first.He had seven children and 17 grandchildren with another one on the way.“He told us the day he had children that he was going to anything and everything to be the best father he could be he and when he had grandchildren he vouched to be the best grandparent he could ever be and he owned up to his word,“ said Jocelyn.She said her mother is still recovering.“She’s still quarantined in her apartment and she’s had friends stop by her bedroom window and that just means the world to us because we’re all over here grieving but she’s also grieving way over there so we want to thank everybody for their love and support during this time.”Because of the pandemic they are not able to travel to Everett, Washington at this time.“That’s the hardest part not being able to be with each other you know my dad raised us to be close and tight knit together and that’s very impossible right now,” said Jocelyn.The Jocelyn and Raylen said that a wake and traditional ceremony took place on the Thunderchild, First Nation organized by their grandmother to help him on his journey to the spirit world.“His mother is doing proper protocol at her house right now where only seven to ten people are allowed inside at a time,” said Jocelyn. “Just to help him on his journey home and then once everything is ok and its good to travel again them we will be heading to Everett Washington to divide his ashes.” 

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Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.