Shane O'Neal, who was 40 years old, had no preexisting conditions and had planned to get vaccinated the week he got sick.
shane O'neal
Credit: Knauf Funeral Homes

A Florida man set to become a grandfather died from COVID-19 just 20 minutes before his first grandchild was born.

Shane O'Neal, 40, had been "super excited" about the arrival of his grandson, his daughter, Kylie Dean, told USA Today.

"Every time he'd go to the store, he'd pick up some baby clothes or baby toys," she said.

But in early August, the same week he had planned to get vaccinated, O'Neal tested positive for COVID-19. He had no preexisting conditions, but after a week with the virus he was hospitalized and intubated.

"He has made sure to mention to every single nurse that took care of him before his intubation, and he said, 'My daughter's 37 weeks pregnant. My daughter's 38 weeks pregnant. I'm gonna have my first grandbaby.' He wanted everybody to know," Dean told First Coast News.

Doctors advised putting O'Neal on an ECMO machine, a device that takes over the functions of the heart and lungs, but Dean and the hospital were unable to find an available ECMO machine anywhere in the country, due to the high number of hospitalized COVID patients.

And early in the morning on Sept. 3, at approximately 3:30 a.m., O'Neal died from COVID-19. A half hour before then, his doctor had called Dean, who was in labor, to tell her that her father would soon die.

"He was like 'I'm really sorry to tell you this right now, but your father just, despite all efforts, he's basically not going to make it," she told USA Today.

"I broke down and was literally sobbing. And my family and friends are standing at my window, watching me just literally break," she said. "That's probably the best way to describe it. I felt broken." 

Soon after, at 3:49 a.m., Dean gave birth to her son Preston.

Dean said she'll always remember her father as "supper funny" and "a great dad" who "did anything and everything for me and my brother." 

And Dean said that she sees O'Neal in her son.

"My dad would do the 'I love you' sign in sign language. And I've looked at Preston's hands, just at random times, and he has that sign on his hands, like the 'I love you sign,'" she said. "I don't know if it's coincidence, but it always brings me back to my dad when I see it." 

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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