Note: the Simon family has set-up a GoFundMe page here. It has been authenticated.
Makenna is a 9-year-old Palm Coast resident and student at Belle Terre Elementary school. She has a twin sister and two other siblings, the oldest a 14-year-old student at Matanzas High School.
“The One and Only Ivan is her favorite book,” Makenna’s father Tristan Simon says, referring to the Newbery Medal-winning Katherine Applegate book about a gorilla who’s lived some 10,000 days in captivity at a mall. “She’s kind-hearted, soft spoken, quiet, loving, just a really sweet, sweet girl. Extremely intelligent for her age, otherwise healthy, she’s never had any kind of health issue other than a cold or a flu. Normal weight for her age. Normal everything. She loves to swim. Dogs are her favorite things in the world. And her sisters.”
Her sisters, from whom she’s been separated since Friday, including her twin, from whom she’s not spent a night apart since they were born, Simon said this morning by phone, frequently unable to control his emotions. He spoke from within or just outside Makenna’s hospital room at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, where she was admitted in the early hours of Saturday after her parents took her to the emergency room on another Wolfson campus the night before.
“She is fully oxygen dependent at that point,” Simon said. “That’s where we’ve been since. They did every test they could possibly think of in the world. The infectious disease doctor was our main caregiver when we got here. She didn’t leave any stone unturned, and by process of elimination, they were able to pinpoint it to covid related pneumonia. It took her a full 24 hours to get her on the correct medication for covid pneumonia.”
Simon first shared Makenna’s story in a striking, terse Facebook post Monday, “not for attention or sympathy, but in hopes of spreading awareness.” He spoke about his daughter’s illness and hospitalization at length this morning–including the description of such little-known details as the way medical personnel wrap her in an inflatable vest that helps shake things up in her lungs by creating air vibrations. “It’s dehumanizing and humiliating for her,” he said.
Makenna is at least the third child to have been hospitalized for covid-related illness since the delta variant ravaged through Flagler County, but the first whose ordeal has come to light. The account is a stark indication of covid’s reach, even among children. Confronting the glibness of covid-minimizers or deniers, the story Simon told illustrates the persistent and pernicious tenacity of the disease and the far-reaching effects of the illness beyond patients themselves–the way it upends, separates and traumatizes families, cuts off income, creates unspeakable loneliness even for those not hospitalized, and leaves its casualties fuming at a community’s refusal to embrace–beyond thoughts and prayers–the small, effortless measures that could prevent much of the harm to most.
“She is now oxygen dependent and in danger of being sent to adult ICU for more advanced oxygen treatment, if they need to go any higher at all,” Simon wrote on Monday, a post signed by his wife Laurie Simon as well. “Our baby is having the fight of her life and we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. The doctors and nurses here all know us very well now, as we get way more visits than most patients due to her unstable status. So, while so many enjoy their body autonomy and ‘freedom,’ I am in a hospital room watching my 9-year-old daughter struggle to breathe. Was it worth it? Our family did everything right to protect ourselves AND you. Did you?”
Tristan Simon is a Realtor in Palm Coast. His wife works in an oncologist’s office. They and their four children have all followed covid protocols scrupulously, by principle as much as by necessity: Simon had open-heart surgery in Cleveland three years ago and lives with a genetic heart disease. He’s what’s called immunocompromised, meaning he’s at greater risk of complications from covid exposure. Both parents secured vaccines almost as soon as they were available. They masked up and had their children masked at school and elsewhere. As soon as the booster shot was available, Simon got one earlier this month.
It happened to be a day before his 14-year-old daughter, who attends Matanzas High School, complained of a slight sniffle and minor discomfort. That was on Sept. 8. She tested positive for Covid and began isolation in quarantine. Before long, three members of the family had tested positive for Covid. It was clear the entire family had been exposed. They all quarantined. The parents got antibody treatments. The illnesses were all mild, with few symptoms other than eight or nine days of fatigue.
By last week it seemed as if the family had weathered the outbreak.
Most had. Makenna had not.
She had a fever. The family cancelled its plans. Makenna’s parents took her to CentraCare off Palm Coast Parkway. She was running a 103 fever. She was tested for the flu. Her oxygen read 92 percent, below normal levels, though the caretakers didn’t tell the Simons: the Simons read the figure off Makenna’s chart. She was given Tylenol and observed for 45 minutes. The temperature didn’t fall. She was given a popsicle, and some Pedialite for hydration, plus ibuprofen. Finally the caretakers “said it could be possibly early covid and to check again on Sunday.” She was sent home. Her parents weren’t reassured, especially since the caretakers raised no red flags about Makenna’s oxygen levels. At home the Simons tested her oxygen again–they’d acquired the means previously–and were troubled by the results: 88 to 89.
“At that point that we decided to take matters in our own hands, we went up to Wolfson’s,” Simon said.
“At this stage, we had some decline and she was on the absolute maximum oxygen that they’re capable of handling in a regular hospital room, and her blood oxygen levels were still holding around 90- percent, hovering between like 88 and 92,” Simon said. All efforts were in keeping her from going to intensive care. “Thankfully we’ve been dodging that bullet. We’re at the cusp of it. They’ve lowered her oxygen slightly, so I’m feeling confident that’s not going to happen at this point. Had we been three hours later or 24 hours later I don’t know that would be the case. We’re just very fortunate right now.”
The entire focus has been on Makenna’s care. But at an unavoidable psychological and financial price. Financially, and dating back to the quarantine from the earlier part of the month, the illnesses have “destroyed my income,” in Simon’s words. “My wife has used all the paid time off she’s accumulated over the past 10 years she’s been with this employer.”
It’s only money, Simon says. His voice is not nearly as self-assured when he begins to speak of the isolation the illness has forced on his family. Makenna herself is “extremely lonely, depressed, sad. We can’t have any extra visitors,” Simon said.
His daughter has felt lonely from the separation from her sisters, especially her twin. The reverse has been just as true, minus the trauma of being in a hospital room. The children’s paternal grandparents have taken over their care, taking them to school, one of them spending the night at the family home so the children could still sleep in their beds, to minimize the disorientation. Simon’s mother showed up at the hospital and was told she could not visit her granddaughter: though two people are allowed as visitors, they have to be the same two people. No substitutions.
“I miss my kids. It just kills me not having all of them. I spend every minute of my life with them,” their father said.
Work has been set aside. The Simons stayed at a hotel over the weekend. They’re being set up to stay at the Ronald MacDonald house to cut down on bills. The length of their stay is uncertain. “I can’t give you the answer because I don’t know the answer but it’s going to be a few more days minimum,” a physician told the Simons, he said. Makenna’s oxygen is improving, but she’s been sleeping only a few hours day or night.
Because of the Facebook post, some school officials have reached out to the Simons. One of them was Colleen Conklin, the school board member, who has been speaking with Simon. “He appreciated me reaching out and he asked to please get his story out,” she said this morning. “He’s upset, he seems to be between angry and frustrated and of course has tremendous concerns for the well being of his daughter.”
Conklin had spoken of two children known to her to have been hospitalized previously. She’d spoken of them at a Sept. 21 school board meeting, a month after she attempted to enact a mask mandate in the schools and was shot down, as much by 3-2 votes as by much of the audience. “I said we have two children we know have had Covid and have been in the ICU,” Conklin recalls saying, “and was screamed at by the audience, ‘you’re a liar, you’re a liar,’ headshaking. It was ridiculous. I applaud the father for having the courage to share his story. The idea that it even takes courage speaks volume on the situation. The idea that anyone would feel any sense of fear or intimidation to share what is happening is part of the insanity of the whole situation.”
Jill Woolbright, one of the three school board members who voted against a mandate, wrote Simon this morning. “Ms. Simon,” she wrote, “I am sorry to hear that your daughter had to be admitted to the hospital with COVID. Please know I will be keeping her and your family in my prayers. Please keep me abreast of her condition when you are able and let me know what I can do to assist your family.”
Simon replied: “You did this to my child, your disinformation on healthy children’s recovery put us here! We trusted the school board to make the right decisions. You should be ashamed of yourself for pretending to care. Unless you have a plan to protect the other children then do NOT contact me directly. If you saw the humiliation my otherwise healthy 9 year old is being put through maybe then you would grow a heart. And I am a man, Ms. Laurie is Mrs. Simon.”
The Flagler school board’s decision to vote down a mask mandate was not unusual–at least not in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis and his agencies have issued orders banning mask mandates, and where DeSantis’s Education Department has docked the pay of school board members in some of the counties that have defied the orders. Only a dozen counties did so, only two were docked any pay, and several of those that defied the order have since retreated and fallen in line with the state. Flagler school board members–and Woolbright especially–insisted that they were not in a position to “break the law.” Board members Conklin and Cheryl Massaro disagreed, arguing that children’s safety was their responsibility, and that it was paramount. The masking ban is in litigation.
The school district this afternoon issued the following statement: “This student and her entire family have been so supportive of Belle Terre Elementary School, and the BTES family is doing everything they can to support them. Belle Terre teachers, students, staff, and administration stand in support of this student. They are writing and collecting cards for their classmate as well as making plans to purchase gift cards the parents can use as they go through this process.”
The reference to Makenna as “this student” is not intended to be cold-hearted: the district by law is required to abide by student privacy laws, and may not disclose names in health-related matters.
Conklin has no doubt that the issues are not over. “Unfortunately, covid is here to stay, and eventually,” she said, “this will become part of an endemic. Until that happens, it’s going to take each of us looking out for each other.”
As for Makenna, her father concluded an interview today with his own reassurances: “To be clear: It will all be fine. It’s just the struggle,” Simon said, his voice again breaking. “She will be OK.”
Dear God, how horrific to have our children endangered by the very adults charged with protecting them. Disgraceful.
How can we help, is there a Go Fund Me to help this family?
The people that need to understand this, the sheep deworming, hydrogen peroxide nebulizer taking, iodine gargling, weird-a$$ people that would rather do and take anything other than a vaccine, won’t care. They will think it’s “fake news.” They’ll say she wasn’t healthy. They will cite a million reasons why this girl is suffering except for Covid. They will say the hospital is hurting her for their agenda. They will say the virus has a 99.9999999999999999999999% survival rate. They will say the virus is a hoax and it’s RSV. I mean, have you spoken to some of these people? They are not well mentally.
The people that read this and understand are already the people that are vaxxed and masked. It’ll never reach the intended audience. It won’t change or move those convinced the vaccines have a microchip in them (your phone is all the “microchip” they need, BTW, or your car, your watch, or any other “smart” item you connect via Bluetooth-but that doesn’t fit their narrative). No, they will continue to scream, “My body, my choice,” while applauding Tallahassee and their heartbeat bill that, oh yeah, makes women have less control over their bodies nullifying their bodily autonomy and freedom of choice arguments. But I digress. Hypocrites will hypocrite and scream they’re pro-life, until a little girl is sick with covid, then it’s all, “Not my problem, not my concern, FREEDOM!”
Mackenna and family you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Mr. Simon God Bless you and your wife for taking matters in your own hands to get the professional medical care she needed in Jacksonville. So, CentraCare didn’t inform her parents about her oxygen levels, gives her Tylenol and then a popsicle with Ibuprofen, what kind of medical university did they attend? This sounds like a good lawsuit to me.
And I would really like DeathSantis to read this article how would he feel if this happen to one of his children? All the lies, ignorance and propaganda he is feeding the people in the State of Florida. He should be charged with negligence for not caring about anyone lives except his own greed to please his idol and the Cult Republican party that are destroying this country.
The highest deaths from COVID is in the counties with the highest voters of Trump, that should tell you something. The Cult Republicans are killing off their own voters.
They need to stop with these political lies and start thinking about human beings and their lives. If they feel they are going to get re-elected with this track record they are even crazier then I thought. But oh I forget they are scheming how to check to get re-elected. Everything about them is cheating and lies.
Over it says
Hate that this is happening to their sweet, innocent young child. Prayers she makes a full recovery and comes home soon.
Shame on adults who have fought against masks and safety protocols, especially the school board. Trevor, Jill and Janet need to be held accountable. This is on them.
Flagler Beach says
Was the 14-year-old daughter vaccinated?
My prayers to Makenna and her family. God will pull her through this
Please let us know if there is a charity or go fund me page for this poor family?
Common Sense says
I have made this comment countless times now …….
THE FLAGLER SCHOOL BOARD IS GUILTY OF CRIMAL NEGLIGENCE
Is no lawyers around with the balls to make some efforts !!!!!!
But it doesn’t matter how many times I say it.
We all write our comments and move on with our day and lives.
Isn’t there more we all can do…………..
The Governor of Florida is guilty of criminal negligence as well as the school board.
Jessica Simon says
We have set up a gofundme page for the family. Small contributions can move mountains for this family!
Tristan Simon says
Thank you Jessica Laurie and I love you so much.
Desantis and the flagler county school board have blood on their hands for failing their responsibilities of young childs well being.
Get these idiots out of office. I would bet desantis kids and him and his wife are vaccinated and if his kids go to school there are masks worn. But for fake phony desantis he puts out another show to his trump voters.
When will this cult republican party realize how many lives they have affected from their lies, propaganda and opposition on taking all steps the scientists have put out there? They have no business being in official offices if this is how they care about the public.
My prayers are for mackenna & family.
Bus driver says
This story is heartbreaking, but the lunatics in this county will come up with excuses and off-wall theories to twist this story
to meet their own ignorant beliefs. It is a sad state when elected officials with their own agendas won’t acknowledge the real risks.
This has to stop. Most officials are not concerned with anyone but themselves and of course their precious power trips. They continue to show us who they are at their core and we continue to follow them like lambs to a slaughter. Wake up people, we can and should do better. What about the Freedom to live? The only thing our school district does well is what they do wrong.
God bless this family. I will pray for a full recovery of this child and hope others will too.
Shame on all of the adults who intentionally dropped the ball on students. I would pay to drive their karma bus.
Tristan Simon says
Thank you for your words and passion our family appreciates it.
Flagler County schools seem negligent in trying to protect McKenna. They had a choice and chose political nonsense over science and facts, they even had an opportunity to get money from the government that the state threatened to with hold. Flagler County schools is harming our children knowingly.
Bill C says
Thank you for sharing your devastating and emotionally draining experience regarding Covid with the community. Your daughter is surrounded with the healing power of love.
Waste of O2 says
When the nut jobs infiltrate local government, school boards, etc this is what we get. Nothing the spread necks say or do makes a bit of sense. They’ve gone down a rabbit hole do deep they cannot be saved.
Used to be anyone acting threatening and crazy like that would be hauled out by the police so decent people could conduct important business.
I’m so disappointed in how this town has turned out.
All of those involved in city government in any way, who’ve taken away a child’s right to be safe in school, will be held responsible. You are devoid of human decency and history will not look favorably on you.
Here’s a bit of advice, if you can’t be bothered to wear a mask, or to get the vaccine: don’t show up at the hospital somewhere for care because you can’t breathe. Why would you all of a sudden trust medical science then? Why would you go into a center and get Regeneron? It’s not approved by the FDA, has side effects and protection won’t last long.
Y’all going to eventually get the vaccine or get Covid and if you make it, get the vaccine. Delta does not play. It will take a healthy person down in a few days. You will answer for each and every person you infect and kill or cause to have long term serious health problems. We’ll not hear you when you beg for the vaccine when it’s too late for you. But, I’m sure we’ll see your “go fund me” page with sad stories about how sick you are and how we should send prayers. Psh…how many Covid victims have you prayed for before it hit home? That’s right, none. That’s how many you’ll get from me.
Tristan Simon says
Day 5 update:
We are in complete disbelief that it’s been 5 days, and we still have no exit plan in place. Please understand these posts, are the very last thing we EVER want to do in any circumstance and especially this one. We are the furthest from attention seekers you would ever meet.
All of the love and donations are overwhelming and dearly appreciated. Our jobs have been very supportive and we are deeply grateful to be here and not have to think of working.
Laurie is overnight duty with Makenna tonight, as they only allow 1 parent after 8. The Covid rules make this all especially depressing for Makenna. She wants nothing more but to see her family and hug her sisters. Spirits were really good most of the day and she, for the most part felt really good. We played some games that were donated, talked a lot, read cards that were sent, judged penmanship of her classmates, looked at classmates drawings and played games on the phone together. We spend a lot of time making her food, or buying food, for her to look at and not eat. 😂
Her current treatments include several antibiotics, a substantial amount of oxygen 24 hours a day, breathing treatments, and some other things I prefer not sharing.
Today they were able to lower oxygen a bit more, so that was very encouraging. Because of the slow, and lack of substantial progress they did do another chest X-ray, which was a little worse then last time 😞 . Due to some blood issues they did add a 4 hour transfusion. It must have made the kid feel good, she was full of piss and vinegar for a while after. Hoping this good blood will help speed the process. We had a little too much fun joking around while that lasted. After this treatment her heart rate became far better and was hanging out in the 80-90s, unfortunately it declined a bit, 50-60ish. Out of caution they ordered a EKG again, but feel confident it will be ok since we just did one Monday along with a ultrasound , when they were checking for HCM (the generic heart disease I have). We’re still waiting on the EKG results to be read by cardiology. There seemed to be a couple abnormalities but very insignificant, from my understanding. and not dangerous, most likely caused by her current meds. Makenna is very stable and she is going to pull full just fine. Of course no one is happy she’s not progressing quicker but I’m confident it will soon!
Please keep the cards coming she reads them all. It’s not easy finding fun things to do in a 10×10 room. She only has about 7 feet of mobility due to oxygen that she requires is attached to wall.
I encourage anyone reading this post to please, for our baby, reach out to the Flagler County School Board and ask them why, why did they not protect Makenna! Why did they allow this to happen to our baby!!!!! And what are they going to do to protect the other children. How many does it have to be until they care? One is too many, we would never wish this hell on our worst enemy. Colleen Walsh Conklin tried the ones that didn’t have blood on their hands.
David Schaefer says
To Makenna keep praying sweetheart things are on your side. To Mr & Mrs Simon keep the faith you are at a great hospital we use Baptist for everything. It’s a damn shame we live in a county who could care less about their residences only themselves. DeathSantis , Flagler Co school board, the medical care around hear, and the government are the cause of this failure to our children. I am keeping you all in my prayers .
Mr. Simon thank you so much for Mackenna’s latest progress. I haven’t stopped praying for her since I first read your story on Flagler Live and will continue praying for her.
As far as the Flagler County School Board and the top one of all MacDonald she needs to be removed from that Board immediately, and all the others except Conklin need to follow her out the door. They have blood on their hands. Taxpayers have read for many months about MacDonald and her not protecting the children in Flagler County, what more is it going to take for her to hit the high road and get out. If she had any ounce of dignity in her body she would resign. The taxpayers of this County have read enough about her and the next thing we want to read is she resigned.
“National” Insanity Happening NOW! Just take a look at how they are massively misusing “Covid Funds” to build “PRISONS” in Alabama! If you think it cannot happen in Florida with DeSantis. . . think again. . .