The first child in Spokane County to die from COVID-19 complications was a spunky teenager from Cheney who loved to play volleyball and dye her hair a different color every week.
In other words, Abbi Watson-Freestad was more than a statistic.
Eight months into the pandemic and the toll is apparent in numbers of tests and quarantines and even deaths.
On Monday, Abbi’s life was celebrated by hundreds of family and friends in a livestreamed memorial service at Cornerstone North Church.
At the same time, dozens have contributed to a GoFundMe account that will defray the medical costs and other expenses. As of Tuesday night, the fund had raised more than $6,000 toward a goal of $10,000.
“She was a very spunky kid,” said her uncle, Noah Bleam. “But she always had a smile on her face and she could care less about her own problems. She was always more worried about everyone else.”
Like many teenagers, Abbi struggled under the restrictions of the pandemic. Last year, she played on the freshman volleyball team at Cheney High School, but this year the sport was postponed until spring.
Also, there have been no in-person classes so far at Cheney High, leaving Abbi and other teens to rely even more on social media.
Abbi had done that for years, posting videos and selfies, often with a new hairstyle.
“From one week to the next you didn’t know what her hair would look like, because she couldn’t make up her mind,” said her aunt, Cassandra Bleam, who established the GoFundMe account.
“Just walking in the door, she warmed you up,” Cassandra Bleam said. “She was definitely a nurturing character.”
However, Abbi suffered from underlying conditions – asthma and allergies since she was young – that have led to questions about her death.
“She was the light of my life,” her mother, Stacy Watson-O’Leary, told KHQ on Tuesday night.
“But it was the asthma,” Watson-O’Leary said. “It just never subsided. She lived her life carrying breathing treatments with her inhalers and EpiPens.”
According to her mother, Abbi’s condition worsened during the past five weeks.
While staying at the home of Noah Bleam, she felt ill.
“She came downstairs, grabbing her chest,” her mother says, “Yelling ‘Mommy, it hurts! Please make it stop! Please make the hurt stop!’ “
She was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, but a lung collapsed later that night. The following day she was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Abbi died on Friday afternoon, just two weeks from her 16th birthday.
The Spokane Regional Health District reported her as a COVID-19 death – the first in the county for anyone under the age of 20 – on Monday afternoon.