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Community rallies around teen dancer battling COVID-19

Ella Winston, a 17-year old from Wayzata, is being treated at Children's Hospital for severe symptoms of the virus and the projected bills are daunting.

WAYZATA, Minn. — It's a reality of life that sometimes you don't really feel the impact of how good and kind people can be until things hit rock bottom.

The family of 17-year-old Ella Winston has been through a whirlwind, after the energetic senior captain of the Wayzata Dance Team was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 30. While some young people experience almost no symptoms, the virus devastated Ella, who was almost immediately moved into the ICU at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. 

Among the complications she was suffering were a severe cough, sore throat, vomiting, full body rash, chest pain, and a temperature of 104.5. It was soon determined that Ella had kidney failure, dangerously low blood pressure, a UTI, and bacteria infection.  

"She’s quite miserable with the coughing, sore throat and chest pain. (She just had another chest X-ray at 11:15am, yesterday’s showed some fluid buildup.) Her respiration rate keeps dropping as well, so they want to check on her chest pain. It’s so hard to see my sweet girl be hurting so bad and be so sad," wrote Ella's mother Sarah in an update for family and friends.

A GoFundMe site was started by family friend Jen Gordon Rasmussen, who says Ella grew up dancing with her daughter Makenna and is like another child to her. Gordon Rasmussen says making matters worse is that Sarah, a single mom and sole provider for three children, found out five days into Ella's ICU stay that her insurance doesn't cover hospitalizations.

"This was devastating news," Gordon Rasumussen wrote on Ella's GoFundMe site. "Sarah is a loving and caring, SINGLE mom, and sole financial and physical provider for her three beautiful children (Jada, Ella, and Owen). She is hard working, loyal, ambitious, and currently living in her daughter's ICU hospital room praying for her recovery. There is no WAY most people, including Sarah, can afford this kind of care out of pocket. The bills will start coming and Sarah needs help."

"Sarah is an amazing human. She is proud, strong, determined, and of course HATES asking for help," the post continues. "However,  in the same breath, she is the one of the most generous people I know, and is always the first person to jump in and go an extra 1000 miles to help ANYONE she knows that is in need. It is time for us to help Sarah (whether she likes it or not)."

Credit: GoFundMe
Family friends, members of the dance community and complete strangers have donated more than $97,000 to help cover Ella's hospital bills.

Help was sought, and the community answered. Not just Ella and Sarah's immediate circle, but the Minnesota dance community and complete strangers. As of 1 p.m. Monday, just one day after the page was started, donations had reached more than $97,000 and the words that came with those dollars were food for the soul. 

"The Chanhassen Dance Team families and coaches send their heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Ella, her family, and the Wayzata Dance Team. Ella is the best representative of our sport and we hope for a speedy recovery," wrote a representative from the Chanhassen Dance Team, who raised more than $900 to help Ella. 

"Ella & Sarah - We donate in memorial of our loving father, Shane Cotter. We lost him to COVID this fall, but one of his favorite past times was watching his granddaughter dance!," shared Jo and Pat Cotter. 

"I heard about Ella's story through the grapevine from a co-worker," posted Andrea Miller, who doesn't know the Winstons but is clearly moved by their plight. "Through her YouTube video it was clear that Ella is a strong, passionate, beautiful girl that dances with her whole heart. My heart was broken to hear of her immense struggle with COVID. I want to help in any way that I can. I want to give in any way that I can. Praying for you all. God bless!"

Ella was moved out of the ICU on Sunday, but remains at Children's for continuing treatment. Her mother is asking everyone to do what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Please, please I can’t stress this enough...stay home if you are sick!," Sarah Winston wrote. "QUARANTINE for 2 WEEKS if you were exposed to someone who tests positive for Covid. This means even WITHOUT symptoms AND/OR a negative covid test. This is so important. Please do the right thing."

If you'd like to learn more about Ella's battle or help her family out, check out the GoFundMe page.


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