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‘We lost a hero’: Lake City nurse dies at 27 after battle with COVID-19

LAKE CITY, Fla. – The main concern of James White, a registered nurse at the Lake City VA Medical Center, was doing right by his patients.

In August, he was caring for patients with COVID-19 in the hospital when he tested positive for the virus himself. After his positive test, he went home and self-quarantined. But, less than a week later his pain was more than he could handle.

“We stayed in contact with him all week and it was harder and harder to get responses out of him,” his father David White told News4Jax.

White, known as “Jimmy” to those who knew him best, drove himself to the Lake City Medical Center where doctors discovered he had pneumonia in both of his lungs and that his oxygen levels were low. White was then transferred to another hospital in Ocala and intubated. Because of his age, his family expected he would survive. But fewer than two weeks later White died at the age of 27.

“We get a call Sunday that he coded and had a heart attack and for 20 minutes they were trying to get him back. We waited for better news, but every phone call was sadder and sadder news,” said David White. “Jimmy just continued to have heart attacks. They tried to bring him back and then finally they couldn’t.”

“He was way too young and every doctor and nurse that we spoke to said the same thing,” said his older sister, Allison Williams. “This shouldn’t be happening.”

Yesterday, we lost a hero. My baby brother and bestest bud. He spent his last days serving others as a nurse at VA Hospital in Lake City, FL treating patients and putting his life on the line. He was 27 and a vibrant young man. Ultimately, Jimmy did not win the earthly battle against COVID, but I know he is rejoicing in heaven right now because the ultimate victory is won. I take comfort that he and mom are reunited in heaven. I thank you all for all the words and acts of kindness and support. It means so much to our family. A big “thank you” from the bottom of my heart and soul to all nurses & those who serve in the medical profession. You do not get nearly enough TLC and recognition. Thank you to all who worked alongside Jimmy. I pray we can all find some peace somehow. Cherish your loved ones often. Save all the memorabilia and memories. You really never know, guys. It can all be gone in an instant. Love with an open heart and often. Forgive quickly and completely. Don’t wait until tomorrow... tomorrow is not guaranteed. Sissy loves you forever, Jimmy.

Posted by Allison Williams on Monday, August 17, 2020

White is the third person under the age of 32-years-old to die after contracting COVID-19 in Columbia County, according to the state health department. Across Florida, cases involving patients from 25-34 years old represent just 1% of deaths from COVID-19.

“He spent his last days caring for patients and putting his life on the line and being on the front lines,” Williams said.

Gathered together at a table on Tuesday, his sister, father and stepmother giggled through tears talking about the way Jimmy would get them to laugh. His family described him as quick-witted with a big heart.

“He was sarcastic, dry sense of humor, but anyone who knows him knows he had the biggest heart,” Williams said.

Williams, who had a close tie with her younger brother, was the last to see him.

Through tears, she thanked the nurse, who she only knows as “DeeDee,” for finding a way for her to say goodbye in person.

“Really, just to all the nurses and medical staff that are caring and empathetic. They really care and that’s what my brother chose to do with his life was to care for others,” said Williams. “That takes a special human being to do that. I just want to say thank you.”

According to his obituary, White was born in Chicago and had lived in Lake City since 1996. He graduated from Columbia High School in 2011.

As of Tuesday, there were 26 deaths connected to COVID-19 reported in Columbia County, not including White.

Mike Leedom, a 31-year-old Lake City man and father of two, and a 30-year-old woman also died in Columbia County in recent months.

A celebration of White’s life will be held Aug. 22. His funeral will be streamed live on the Gateway-Forest Lawn Funeral Home Facebook page.

“I take comfort that he and mom are reunited in heaven. I thank you all for all the words and acts of kindness and support. It means so much to our family,” Williams said.

James White, pictured with sister Allison Williams, died after contracting COVID-19.
James White, pictured with sister Allison Williams, died after contracting COVID-19. (Screenshot via Facebook)

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