'Really hit home for us:' Durham man shares story after mom dies from COVID-19 related illness

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham County's first person to die from a COVID-19-related illness is 76-year-old Judy Harward.

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Judy's family took her off life support Friday and now they want to warn others to take the virus seriously.

"As a mother, she was a very determined woman," said Chris Harward, Judy's son. "She was demanding at times but I look back at that time and it helped me be who I am today."

On March 19, Chris called an ambulance for her. He said the day earlier, she had been to the doctor and had gotten a good report. But it seems underlying health issues coupled with what they didn't know at the time was the novel coronavirus were taking a toll.

"The next day or two she was in the ICU and a couple of days later, they had done the rapid test and then they did the four day test which they had to send out."

Soon she was put on life support and last Friday, Chris and his family made the difficult decision to let her go.

"We need to let people know that this is for real," he said. "This is something that happens at home -- not just something that happens in another state or county. It really hit home for us."

Since Chris interacted with his mother on the 19th, he and his whole family went into quarantine for two weeks.

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Judy spent time on the Durham City Council years ago. She was also an active member at Greystone Baptist Church.

The family is holding two funerals Tuesday back-to-back since there can be no more than five people gathering at once.

They will also have a drive-by type of wake at their home in Durham Tuesday evening.

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