KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Aspen Deke’s family thought the 17-year-old had escaped the worst after beating a rare cancer three times in her life, but tragically, the teenager died from COVID-19 complications on Saturday.
"She was the most thoughtful, kind, compassionate, forgiving and caring young woman you would ever meet," her mother, Amanda, told FOX Television Stations Monday. "She wanted to give joy to everyone around her all the time."
Aspen, a high school junior, contracted the coronavirus in November after her mother and brother tested positive for the virus. Amanda said she doesn’t know how the family caught COVID-19.
For the next two months, Aspen was intermittently admitted into Children’s Mercy Kansas City hospital, battling a fever for most of the time. Doctors placed her on a ventilator twice before she died.
"She was able to take her last breaths without it," Amanda explained.
Aspen’s parents said their daughter cared so deeply for the people around her. She was always planning something, from campfires to movie nights with friends.
"Even if you didn’t want a birthday cake, if you weren’t a big birthday person, you were getting a birthday cake," her father, Eric, added. "I can’t put into words how much she cared for other people."
When Aspen was 4 years old, she was diagnosed with the Philadelphia chromosome positive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. It’s a rare type of cancer found mostly in children. According to the National Cancer Institute, 3,100 children and adolescents younger than 20 years old are diagnosed with ALL each year in the U.S., with 98% of children attaining remission.
"This girl has had so many medications throughout her life," Eric added. "She was okay with it. More okay with it than I could ever imagine. She just was happy to be alive."
Aspen’s parents said the cancer weakened their daughter’s immune system.
Amanda said doctors told Aspen she wouldn’t be able to bear children because of the chemotherapy and radiation, but Aspen still dreamed of being a stay-at-home mother, hoping to one day adopt children.
The Dekes said they’re aware of people’s lack of understanding and mistrust towards the medical community given the ever-changing details and information surrounding COVID-19. But they urge people to have compassion and do what’s necessary to stop the virus from spreading.
"But when you go out in public, wear your mask, protect people, wash your hands," the parents added. "Just think about others."
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help out with expenses. The parents also asked anyone who has had COVID-19 to donate their plasma to help other patients still battling the virus.
The U.S. COVID-19 death toll has climbed past 440,000, with over 95,000 lives lost in January alone, a record in the country. Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.