PALMETTO, Fla. - The loss of a child is devastating for any family, but a Palmetto family who lost their daughter and sister this week to COVID-19 can't believe the virus infected their whole family, but only took the youngest.
17-year-old Aryana Santana -- or Ary as she was known to friends and family -- spent the last 18 days of her life in the hospital. She died Tuesday.
"It just doesn't feel real to me," her sister, Tatyana said. "It still feels like she's just sleeping at the hospital, it doesn't feel like she's actually gone."
The family says they were all infected with COVID-19 around the same time, including their 79-year-old grandfather who was hospitalized but has since recovered.
17-year-old Aryana 'Ary' Santana, Palmetto High student, dies of COVID-19
Losing their 17-year-old to the virus hurts deeply.
"There's times where I'm like, ‘OK, I'm fine,’ then the next minute I'm crying my eyes out," Tatyana said. "I lost my baby sister, my only sister at that, it's hard."
Ary's mom says she stayed at the hospital for all 18 days she was there.
"Towards the end, she was getting better, and then towards the end, the night before she died, all of a sudden got a really high temperature and wasn't reacting," Ary’s mom, Maria remembered.
Ary's parents wouldn't say if she had the vaccine but say her death should be a wake-up call for everyone.
"Don't think that COVID is over, it's real, and kiss your kids, every night, hug them, love them, you never know," Maria said.
Ary was in the JROTC and on the yearbook staff at Palmetto High School. Students and faculty have already begun making a small memorial for her in the school's parking lot.
Her parents say Ary wanted to become a make-up artist after graduation. Now they’re left only with memories.
"She was like the life of the party. She was very sociable. She loved making new friends," her sister remembered. "I'm an introvert. I'm very shy. She was, like, that extra chaos that I needed."
Her mom agreed that Ary was the "life of the party, spunky, she'd make anybody laugh, a person you want to be around with."