Fighting emotion, Randy Brown struggled to find the right words.
But then the former Bulls guard, assistant coach and Chicago native settled on a theme close to Douglas Caridine’s heart.
“I have a big family. I have five brothers, blood brothers. And he was my sixth brother,” Brown said of his brother-in-law. “When you saw my brothers at the United Center, he blended right in. It wasn’t fake. It was real.”
What Brown, his wife, Tamara, and the rest of Caridine’s family is experiencing right now is as real as life gets.
On March 30, Caridine, 38, lost his quick battle with the COVID-19 virus. The graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School and Lewis University, who worked in the financial aid office at DePaul University, leaves behind a wife and two young children.
“We were expecting him to come home from the hospital. And then it didn’t happen. We’re in total shock for our family,” Brown said. “You sit around and take this stuff for granted. But it can hit home. He’s going to be forever missed.”
Through tears and laughter over a phone conversation, Randy and Tamara Brown talked about Caridine’s high school football career, his avid Bulls fandom and his love for baseball, which included him umpiring youth games. They talked about his beautiful wedding in the Dominican Republic and how he sported a “Mother’s boy” tattoo to represent his love for family.
But above all, they spoke haltingly with emotion, and forcefully with purpose, to honor Caridine’s life with words that they hope can be of public service.
“I still think that people are not taking this as seriously as they should. They don’t understand the severity of it because it hasn’t hit them yet. I want to put out there that it’s not just happening to older people,” Tamara Brown said. “He was a young man. He did have diabetes. We didn’t even originally think about that as a serious underlying condition.
“For those who think, ‘Oh, that’s not a big deal.’ Diabetes is a big deal. So I just want people to know that this virus is happening to younger people. And people need to listen to what the professionals are saying and do their social distancing and everything else that comes with that.”
Tamara Brown said her younger brother first showed cold-like symptoms of a runny nose and cough on March 23. Since he didn’t have a fever, Tamara Brown said a nurse remotely offered Caridine treatment advice. But three days later, his breathing had worsened to the point that his wife took Caridine to the hospital.
“When they listened to his chest, they could tell something was wrong. Immediately, he was diagnosed with double pneumonia and tested (for COVID-19),” Tamara Brown said. “They admitted him and sent him to ICU. They said they were going to sedate him because his body was really struggling. They put him on a ventilator.”
Two days later, according to Tamara, the test results confirmed he had COVID-19.
“I talked to him on (March 26) when he went in the hospital. He said he was scared. We joked around a little bit. I was like, ‘Dude, I’ll see you in a couple days. You’ll be fine,’” Randy Brown said. “Four days later, this kid was gone.”
On March 30, Brown waited in the parking lot of the hospital out of respect for the hospital workers and visitors who needed to wear personal protective equipment, as well as to follow social distancing guidelines. Caridine’s direct family donned the protective gear.
Tamara Brown said her younger brother passed away shortly after his family, including his beloved mother, arrived.
“And the toughest part is we aren’t allowed to mourn with family,” Randy Brown said. “We aren’t allowed to grieve. Everyone wanted to come and visit, and we obviously said we can’t because this (virus) is so serious.”
Caridine was born on Christmas. Tamara Brown also talked about the difficulty of not being able to physically be with her and her late brother’s mother at this time, and the sadness of not being able to plan a funeral.
But like Christmas morning, Tamara Brown sounded like her brother’s life was a gift when she pondered a question about how she’d like him to be remembered.
“He was 100 percent about family,” she said without hesitation.
For more information regarding COVID-19 resources the city of Chicago is providing and recommended best practices, follow this link to chicago.gov.
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