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Some families pushed further into isolation without mask mandate

Some families say rolling back the mask mandate in Texas will push them further into isolation as they try to protect vulnerable loved ones.

HOUSTON — Governor Greg Abbott will roll back the mask mandate in Texas on March 10, and for some families, that means pushing them further into isolation as they try to protect vulnerable loved ones; including the McCullough family in Houston.

Raising three young kids during a pandemic isn’t exactly easy, especially when one of the children is medically fragile.

The youngest, Isla McCullough, 3, was born with DiGeorge Syndrome.

“It’s a chromosome condition,” mom Heather McCullough explained. “When she came out, our whole world flipped upside down.”

DiGeorge Syndrome can cause a whole host of life-threatening medial issues. 

“She’s had a bunch of open-heart surgeries,” McCullough said. “She has pulmonary hypertension which is a chronic lung disease.”

Isla’s condition is scary on a good day, but throw in COVID-19, and “this is insanely scary,” McCullough said. “You can’t even look past tomorrow. You have to really dig into today and what you can do today to make her safe today."

That includes the simple act of wearing a mask, which is why Gov. Abbott’s announcement was unwelcome news.  

“I felt a lot of things: sadness, defeat, a little bit of fear," McCullough said.

McCullough is not only dealing with concern over Isla getting the virus. She’s also grieving the death of her brother, Mikey, who died from COVID-19 complications in December.

McCullough said her brother was 33 years old and healthy.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 in July 2020, and the virus attacked his heart. He initially needed heart surgery and was hospitalized until September. In December, McCullough said he suffered a series of strokes and died.

“It has been devastating. It’s really been earth shattering to all of us. He loved life...one of the kindest people I’ve ever known," McCullough said.

This family knows the worst of COVID-19, and they’re scared for their daughter.

“And I’m like, if he couldn’t take it how is she going to take it?” she said.

They’re also confused and hope people like Isla make Texans hold on to that mask for just a little longer.

“I just don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to continue helping each other. That’s what Texas is about, right? It’s such a small thing that can really make a huge impact on other people’s lives," McCullough said.

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