BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Phillip Purcell, 56, of Berkeley Heights died on December 19, 2020, at Overlook Medical Center, due to complications with coronavirus. He leaves behind three daughters: Kaitlyn, 18, Samantha, 17, and Erin, 15.
COVID-19 hit the Purcell household early December starting with Kaity testing positive. She experienced flu like symptoms of fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, no taste and smell. Phillip's symptoms came a day later and were much more severe. "He was definitely in worse shape than I was," said Kaity. "He couldn't even get out of the bed -- he was having a harder time breathing, he was coughing, and he couldn't eat or sleep."
Phillip was healthy with no underlying health issues -- that's why it was such a shock, said Kaity. It was evident that he needed to get to the hospital. When Phillip was admitted to Overlook Medical Center, his blood oxygen level was extremely low, and required a ventilator. He passed away close to two weeks after being admitted to the hospital. Their grandfather, who lives with the family, was also admitted to the hospital and continues to recover from pneumonia due to COVID.
Because Phillip and their grandfather were COVID patients, the girls were unable to visit in the hospital. The sisters are currently staying with a cousin while their grandfather remains hospitalized. "He's improving little by little -- we're getting there," said Kaity.
It's hard to believe that less than a month ago, Kaity, Sami and Erin were enjoying family routines like going to the grocery store and just having fun together. "He always made it a fun experience," said Kaity. "It was just my dad, who's a single dad. The four of us were really, really close," she said. "My dad was my best friend -- I talked to him about everything -- we did everything together. And you know, same with my sisters -- we were all extremely close. So it's definitely hit hard to say the least." Kaity remembers their last summer trip to Pennsylvania. "It was just constant laughs, constant happiness, constant fun," she said. "Our dad was just trying to give us the best he could on his own -- he was doing the best job that he could."
COVID is no joke, and Kaity, Sami and Erin ask the community to stay safe. "Mask up -- do what you're supposed to do -- social distance. --- The suffering my family is experiencing right now, I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," she said. "It's an extreme loss and I wouldn't want anybody else to have to go through this. If we have to wear a piece of cloth over our face in order to help prevent that, I think that's a small price to pay to keep our loved ones with us and to keep our loved ones healthy."
The holidays have been particularly hard for the sisters. Kaity, a 2020 graduate of Gov. Livingston High School, is currently taking classes at a local college and hopes that getting back into a school routine will help. Sami, a junior, and Erin, a freshman at Gov. Livingston, are members of the SAGA and Art clubs and Sami is a member of the school choir.
"We will figure it all out when we get home, and we can sit down and establish everything that has to be taken care of -- figure out what our new normal is going to be."
For now, they are taking it day by day.
Editor's note: A Gofundme account has been set up to help the sisters while they try to deal with this devastating loss. Phillip was their only means of support and the girls will need as much help as possible. Click here to donate.