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Father Of Local 17-Year-Old Who Died From COVID Warns Others About Risks Of Not Getting Vaccinated

COSTA MESA (CBSLA) - A father in Orange County is dealing with unbearable grief after his healthy, 17-year-old daughter died Friday morning from COVID, and he's speaking out in hopes of saving others the same pain.

Lee Stonum and Kennedy Stonum
Lee Stonum and his daughter, 17-year-old Kennedy, who tragically died from COVID. Feb. 11, 2022 (credit: Stonum Family)

"Ah, the call we got at 4 a.m. was just that we needed to come right now," said Lee Stonum.

Stonum, an attorney in Orange County, rushed to Children's Hospital Los Angeles Friday morning to be at the bedside of his only child.

"Took her off life support and she...and she died at 8 a.m. this morning," the grieving father said.

San Juan Hills High School junior Kennedy Stonum had COVID. She had no preexisting health issues, but she wouldn't get a vaccine for the coronavirus.

"Myself and my wife and he grandmother pleaded, pleaded with her. I think like most teenagers, she felt indestructible. I know I did when I was that age. She didn't know enough about the vaccine and she did know enough the virus that she would risk the virus," Stonum said.

Kennedy's COVID illness caused a series of life threatening complications that came on quickly, according to her dad. The teenager had multi-system inflammatory syndrome and a rare disease that caused her immune system to attack cells in her body.

While Kennedy's case may be rare, Stonum said he had a message for kids, like his daughter, who may be avoiding the COVID vaccine.

"I want to tell them to trust the science. I want to tel them that YouTube and TikTok aren't research. I want to tell them that even if it's a one in a million chance, those statistics don't matter when it's your child. What happened to Kennedy was exceedingly unlikely and very, very rare and none of that matters to me now."

Stonum and his daughter shared a special song, and last night, he sang it to Kennedy one final time.

"The line that I really like from it is...'Wherever I am, you'll always be more than just a memory if f I ever leave this world alive.'"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children, 5-years-old and up get a COVID-19 vaccination.

In addition, the CDC provides helpful resource on how to talk about vaccines with parents and teenagers.


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