Former Memphis Tiger Russell Copeland loses father and aunt to COVID-19

Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 8:13 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Typically during the last week of April, former Memphis Tiger football player Russell Copeland would celebrate the anniversary of getting drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1993 on April 25, his son’s birthday on the 26th and his dad’s birthday on the 27th. However, because of COVID-19, it’s turned into a terribly difficult time after he lost his dad in mid-April to the novel virus.

“It’s hard for me, I’m an only child,” Copeland said. “My dad and I we’d do everything together."

Milton Copeland was a deacon at his family’s church outside Tupelo, Mississippi. A small congregation, of about 60 members, one who had unknowingly been in contact with COVID-19.

“It was a young lady who had went to Florida, her mom came to church," Copeland said. “So it’s not just yourself, it’s who you’re around. When you’re around someone where do they go after they leave you. Where have they been before they come in contact with you.”

After that Sunday, Russell said several others who were at church tested positive. His aunt was one. She passed away two weeks before his dad. He said his dad was healthy, he had a heart transplant more than nine years ago, but hadn’t been sick since.

“He’s just telling me he can’t breathe all of a sudden,” he remembered. “He had to be put on a ventilator. I couldn’t see my dad from that point on. He was still coherent for the most part and they were reading notes to him and that lasted probably four to five days.”

Then his kidneys started to fail. He passed on April 13th. Russell Copeland was unable to be by his dad’s side.

“If he could talk and say something right now he would say, ‘Son, I’m with the Lord. Get yourself together, try not to worry so much about me, I want you to be there for your kids, my grand kids and if you could do anything, please explain to everyone how serious the situation is. I don’t want anymore innocent lives lost because they’re not taking precautions that’s necessary.”’

According to Copeland, his dad had sanitizers in his house, car and pockets all the time and still contracted the virus. He’s hopeful people wear masks in public and be more cautious.

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