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Ohio woman loses 3 family members to COVID-19, urges social distancing for others

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Kelly Conkey Billups lost her brother, mother and father all to coronavirus in three days. her husband is now hospitalized with a ventilator. (Credit: Kelly Conkey Billups)

HILLIARD, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) – A woman from Grove City, Ohio is pleading for people to stay at home and follow social distancing guidelines after she lost her brother, mother and father all to coronavirus in three days this week. Her husband is also currently hospitalized with a ventilator, displaying symptoms of the novel coronavirus infection.

Meanwhile, colleagues in Central Ohio have started a GoFundMe page with a large goal amount, to help ease the burden of the loss for their friend.

Kelly Conkey Billups spoke with WSYX/WTTE on Tuesday, only hours after her mother Judith Conkey and father Lewis Conkey died at Mt. Carmel Hospital. Kelly said she had received a call from the hospital earlier last week that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19.

"We got to say our goodbyes to both of them," Kelly said Tuesday. "They did everything together, their entire life...and we did everything together as a family."

The deaths came only two days after more tragic news. On Sunday, Kelly's brother David Conkey also passed away at a hospital in the Mahoning Valley after falling severely ill with the respiratory infection.

Kelly said her brother had visited with family in Columbus on March 7 and 8, primarily to see his mother whose health was failing. State officials in Ohio had not yet taken drastic action to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as declaring a state of emergency and limiting visitors to hospitals and nursing homes.

Only a day after the visit, David began experiencing symptoms of illness and was hospitalized in intensive care by the end of that week. He was eventually placed on life support with a ventilator and died this past Sunday.

As her brother and parents' condition worsened, Kelly had kept Facebook friends updated on their progress. The posts caught the attention of Michelle Santuomo and Candace Neff, realtors in Central Ohio who work alongside Kelly in the industry.

"When it's somebody right here, in our community as realtors, and hitting them this hard, it's very eye-opening," said Santuomo.

Together with Neff, she contacted Conkey Billups and asked to begin a GoFundMe page to support the family. The goal was set at $50,000; by Tuesday evening, the fund was approaching $10,000.

"Four sets of co-pays, deductibles and now we're also talking funeral costs...$12,500 doesn't go that far. That's where I ended up coming to $50,000, but I don't even know if it's going to make a dent in the end," Santuomo said. "It's going to be difficult to get back to her day-to-day, so anything we can do to support her in the future, I'm willing to do."

Following the tragic news on Tuesday, Kelly Conkey Billups said she was quarantined at home for possible exposure to the virus and was forced to pray and pull for her husband from there.

"He is now fighting for his life, and showing some signs of improvement," she said.

Through clearly evident grief on Tuesday, Kelly still implored others in Central Ohio and beyond to observe social distancing and stay-at-home orders and follow guidelines meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"I beg and plead for people to stay home. I don't want anybody else to feel the pain and raw suffering we have been through," Kelly said, surrounded by family. "It's too much."

You can donate to the fund in support of the Conkey Billups family by clicking here.