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Gainesville woman balancing family life with parents' battle with COVID-19
Mom on oxygen, father in hospital
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Rebel Habgood and wife Jackie hold their grand kids Lyric, 16 months, and Cash 3. Photo Courtesy Dezeree Cook

Already caring for her two young children at home, Dezeree Cook of Gainesville is now looking after her parents, who are both battling COVID-19. 

“This is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to personally deal with,” the 31-year-old woman said in an interview Thursday, Aug. 27. 

Cook’s father, 63-year-old Rebel Habgood, is in the ICU at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville, where he has been since Aug. 14. 

“He’s currently fighting daily for his life,” Cook said. “He’s still in very serious condition.” 

And Cook’s mother, 60-year-old Jackie Habgood, was at the hospital from Aug. 15 until Tuesday, Aug. 26, when she returned to her and her husband’s Gainesville home. She has now tested negative for the virus, but her physical challenges remain. 

“She is on oxygen,” Cook said. “It’s still very much a struggle for her just to get up and go to the bathroom. What this has done to her lungs is unbelievable.” 

The Habgoods began getting sick after Cook’s mother returned from a trip to South Georgia on Aug. 8. 


Cook said her mother “was getting a little bit of a cough. Her symptoms were very mild – they could have been anything.” 

A few days later, “she started feeling really fatigued, having no energy. It took a lot of breath (for her) to do much,” she said. 

Her father started feeling ill on Aug. 12 and, suffering from fatigue, got tested a couple of days later. Because he had very low oxygen levels, he was taken by ambulance to the hospital and was admitted. 

“For him, (the illness) got serious very quickly,” Cook said. 

She hasn’t been able to see her father while he’s been in the hospital, and she has had limited interaction with her mom. When she goes to their house, she takes “extreme precautions,” including “keeping a huge distance” between herself and her mom. 

“I just try to do things around the house, like let the dogs out, do her dishes and laundry,” Cook said. “But I haven’t been able to hug and kiss her.” 

Otherwise, “I’ve been taking care of all their bills, doing errands for her, bringing her stuff.” 

Her last direct exposure to either of her parents was Aug. 4, but she still is on guard for symptoms. 

“I almost go nowhere, except the store, if I have to,” Cook said. “And I’m a complete mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing type of person.” 

The job of taking care of her parents has fallen to the married mom of a 3-year-old son and a 16-month-old daughter, as neither of her two siblings are local.  Cook’s husband works two jobs to support the family. 

Asked if she’s holding up OK, Cook said, “I have good moments and I have bad moments.” 

She has started a GoFundMe page to help her parents financially. 

“It’s going to be a long tough road to recovery for them both,” Cook says on the page. “While I ask for your positive thoughts, vibes, words and prayers more than anything, I'm also reaching out for some financial help. If you know my parents or myself, this is most definitely not something we know how to ask for, nor do we ever.” 

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