EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - One week ago, the Tri-State lost a young man to COVID-19.
Isaiah Mays, of Evansville, was just 19.
“He was just a joy,” says Machelle Mays, Isaiah’s mother. “He was a joy.”
“He was really a good guy,” says Isaiah’s younger brother Isreel Mays. “He really treated people right.”
The 19-year-old basketball-loving teenager was a fighter from the start, according to his mother. Isaiah was born with a heart condition and had a total of three open-heart surgeries.
“Whenever they did a cardiac cath, he had passed away twice,” says Machelle. “He coded twice on the operating table.”
Isaiah also suffered a stroke at six months old, leaving him with left-side weakness.
Despite it all, Machelle says Isaiah never complained. So in December, when he said he did not feel well, Machelle knew something was wrong.
“Whenever I came in and asked him like, ‘Isaiah, how are you feeling?’ He’s like, ‘I feel okay, mom,’” says Machelle, “and it was me that was like, ‘no.’”
Machelle took Isaiah to the ER at Deaconess Midtown Hospital. The next day, he was airlifted to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis where he would battle the virus for more than a month.
“I was praying, God please let him be okay,” says Ebonie Tate, Isaiah’s sister. “Just let him be okay because I knew he was only 19. So he has all his life ahead of him.”
On January 26, Isaiah’s mom was in the parking lot at Riley Children’s Hospital when she received the call. Isaiah had internal bleeding, and doctors said there was nothing more they could do.
“Before I even got to the room,” says Machelle, “I was going down the hallway and I said, ‘Isaiah Luke, your mama is here.’ So, I get in the room and I was like, ‘I bought your big box of Fruit Loops and white cheddar popcorn,’ and I said, ‘but baby, you rest.’”
Community members rallied around the family, starting a GoFundMe. So far, it has raised more than $14,000 for Isaiah’s family.
“The financial situation, whatever, that never entered into my heart,” says Machelle. “I was not worried or concerned about that. I was worried about my baby.”
One of Isaiah’s former teachers, RC Lehman, says he was in communication with Machelle while Isaiah was in the hospital.
“She never seemed tired or worn out or anything,” says Lehman. “She is just strong. Strong is the best word I can use for her.”
Lehman says as a teacher, he could not ask for a better student than Isaiah Mays.
“The world needs a lot more Isaiah’s,” says Lehman, “and we could not really afford to lose one, you know?”
Shortly after Isaiah’s passing, Machelle received a call from one of his teachers at Harwood saying Isaiah had officially earned his high school diploma.
“He did it,” says Machelle, “and so when I look at that diploma, I can only imagine seeing Isaiah Luke Mays. Just knowing that he worked so hard all of his life.”
Machelle says it is her faith that carries her through this difficult journey.
“I thank God that he chose me out of all the women in the world to bring Isaiah into this world,” says Machelle. “He chose me.”
Machelle also wants Isaiah’s legacy to remind people in the Tri-State that the coronavirus pandemic is very much alive.
“Live every moment like it very well could be your last,” says Machelle. “Not every day, but every moment that you take. To the mothers and fathers out there, love your babies. Love your babies because you know what? They are not exempt.”
According to family friends, Isaiah’s funeral service is scheduled for Sunday, February 7 at Davenport Gymnasium.
“I love my baby,” says Machelle. “I loved him, and I will forever love him.”