15-Year-Old Girl with Down Syndrome Who Survived Cancer Dies of COVID: 'A Big Loss'

Alexa Rose Veit "had an infectious smile that could brighten any day," said a member of her county government

Alexa Rose Veit
Photo: ballard county Emergency Management/ Facebook

A 15-year-old Kentucky girl — a “fighter,” who was born with down syndrome and survived leukemia — has died from COVID-19.

Alexa Rose Veit, from Ballard County in Western Kentucky, was a “social butterfly,” according to her friends and family, with “zero filter and an infectious smile that could brighten any day,” said Travis Holder, the Ballard County Emergency Management director, in a Facebook post about her death.

Veit was born with down syndrome, but it “never slowed her down.”

"She was a freshman at Ballard Memorial High School, a member of the Choir, an active member of her church youth group and thoroughly enjoyed time with her family and friends," Holder said.

In July 2019, Veit was diagnosed with leukemia, and spent long days in the hospital undergoing treatment. But “her smile, laugh and determination never left,” Holder said. “Against some odds that were thrown at her,” Veit went into remission on Aug. 27, just a few weeks after her diagnosis.

Alexa Rose Veit
Alexa Rose Veit. ballard county Emergency Management/ Facebook

Then one month ago, with COVID-19 cases rising in Kentucky, Veit started feeling sick. On Oct. 26, her mom took her to get tested for the virus as a routine measure before she underwent a planned surgery and Veit tested positive, as did her mom.

“As the days went on, Alexa began to feel a little worse each day and was eventually hospitalized due to COVID-19 and the development of pneumonia,” Holder said.

Veit was put on a ventilator as her condition continued to deteriorate. Her mother, meanwhile, was also on a ventilator at another hospital, unaware her daughter was severely sick, and Veit instead had her older sister, who had just recovered from COVID-19, by her side. Veit's grandparents also tested positive for the virus, but with mild symptoms.

On Nov. 14, Veit’s mother improved enough to come off the ventilator and was able to see her daughter. One day later, Veit died.

"Alexa was and is a beautiful child of God and I know individuals that looked up to her, individuals whose kids looked up to her," Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a press conference about the state’s rising COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, CNN reported. "For the positivity and enthusiasm and advocacy that she brought. This is a big loss for that community."

Veit's family set up a GoFundMe to help with her medical costs.

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In his Facebook post, Holder said that part of the reason why he decided to share Veit’s story because “we have got to come to the realization that [COVID-19] is real.”

“This isn’t political, it’s not something that ‘has always been here,’ it is real,” he said. “We must start taking the precautions seriously.”

Holder asked the Ballard County community to wear a mask, “even though you may not like” them.

“Wear it out of respect for your fellow Ballard Countians that can’t take the risk of catching this virus,” he said, adding that people should also consider the risks of gathering for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. “I am not asking anyone not to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am simply asking that you be considerate to those whom are most vulnerable.”

"Those who knew Alexa asked we help raise awareness of how deadly this virus is and how important it is to follow the guidelines in place," Beshear said at the news conference. "Today and every day, I'll wear my mask for Alexa, and I hope you will too."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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