SALT LAKE CITY — Amid sky-high COVID-19 case counts in Utah and an ever-increasing death toll, a family on Wednesday remembered a loved one who passed away after contracting the disease.
As Patty and Roy Sandstrom — both in their mid-80s — fell sick to COVID-19 in late October, their son largely suffered from fatigue.
Nearing the end of the Sandstrom family’s quarantine last week, however, 53-year-old Michael took a bad turn.
“He slid to the floor and Roy couldn’t lift him, so we called the paramedics,” Patty Sandstrom said.
Roy Sandstrom said once Michael was in the intensive care unit at St. Mark’s Hospital on Saturday, it was apparent that his lungs were filled with fluids and were not functioning properly.
“They said that they couldn’t even get enough oxygen to resuscitate his lungs at all,” his mother said. “And then it just took him.”
Michael passed away Sunday afternoon as his sister, Laura Sandstrom Bascom, held his hand.
“He just for two or three moments said, ‘Remember, remember, remember Michael,’” his father recalled.
“(Those were) his closing words to Laura,” his mother said.
The family pleaded Wednesday evening for the public to take COVID-19 seriously by wearing masks and following all guidelines.
“Wear the mask always — always,” Roy Sandstrom said. “If they think it’s a political move, tell them they ought to sit in our shoes for a while. They would never think that again.”
The couple questioned if perhaps the disease should have taken them instead of their son, who had Down syndrome.
Michael, they said, had been healthy most of his life.
“(It) should be us at the mortuary,” Patty Sandstrom said. “That’s what’s amazing. We’re 84 and 85, and we’re still here.”
“We should have been on the slab,” Roy shrugged.
The Sandstroms remembered their son as a fun-loving soul who delighted with his singing.
“He knew all the words and he was so on-key,” Patty Sandstrom said. “It was amazing!”
Roy said his son was a “kind, gentle person” and his “angel.”
“I told everybody that, and they agreed,” Michael’s father said. “He loved his dad, and that’s why it’s hard for dad to say goodbye.”
Bascom said her brother was very sweet and sensitive.
“You had to be careful about talking, fighting around him or anything like that because he’d get upset,” she said. “If someone was sad and they were crying, you’d see the tears start coming down.”
Nephew Cameron Cross said his uncle was the type of person who could immediately brighten someone’s mood.
“He changed so many people’s lives, just through his presence,” Cross said.
Bascom said she was grateful she could be with Michael at the end of his life.
“It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, but it was the most cherished thing I will ever have,” Bascom said.
Family members set up a GoFundMe page to help offset expenses and to provide what they hope will be a fitting service for “Mikey.”