Facebook Kevin and Misty Mitchem
A husband and wife from Virginia died weeks apart after contracting COVID-19, leaving behind five children and one grandchild.
Kevin and Misty Mitchem, both in their 40s, fell ill last month, according to Fredericksburg-based newspaper The Free Lance–Star. Misty, 46, died on Sept. 23. Her husband, 48, died on Oct. 8.
The couple, whom the outlet reported met while in high school and were married for 17 years, leave behind their four children: Riley, 17; Leah, 14, and twins Taylor and Aiden, 11. Kevin also has a 22-year-old daughter named Angel from a previous relationship, whose son turns 2 next month.
Speaking with PEOPLE, Kevin's brother Mike says that he hopes the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law will inspire others to take COVID-19 seriously and get vaccinated.
"I knew how deadly COVID could be so I went to my brother and asked him to please get vaccinated," Mike tells PEOPLE. "His response to me was to show different memes and stuff that he found on Facebook. He believed all that to be gospel truth and I could not change his mind."
"The heartbreaking part was," he continues, "while [Kevin] was in the hospital, he asked the medical staff to give him the shot. They had to tell him it was too late."
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Mike told The Free Lance–Star that his brother first started to show symptoms last month, but was sent home from an urgent care center with cold medicine. A few days later, when his health had not improved, Kevin returned to the facility and tested positive for COVID-19.
Just a few days later, Misty, who was diabetic, also began to feel unwell and was soon hospitalized, per the newspaper.
On Sept. 22, Misty's family learned she had to be put on a ventilator and that her kidneys were only functioning at 50 percent, reported The Free Lance-Star.
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The following day, on Sept. 23, Kevin was also admitted to the hospital, according to The Free Lance–Star. Misty died hours later.
"My brother was healthy. He was still pretty much young and he had everything to live for," Mike continued. "He had five kids and a grandson and now all of them have lost him. It's hard on my parents. They're 73, and my mom said your kids are not supposed to die before you."
Following their parents' deaths, the four younger children relocated to South Carolina to live with an aunt and uncle, Mike told the outlet.
A GoFundMe has been organized to help provide for the children. As of Friday, the fundraiser has raised over $12,000.
"The main emphasis we would like to push is 'get vaccinated,' " Mike tells PEOPLE. "If not for you, then for your loved ones."
"If just one person gets their life saved from vaccinations, then we did our part," he adds.