WESTMINSTER, Colo. — As we rebound from the coronavirus, hundreds of people are still fighting for their lives in Colorado hospitals.
A retired firefighter/EMT from Adams County is one of them.
Mark McDonald, 59, of Westminster, began working in the Southwest Adams County Fire District 18 years ago.
Southwest merged with the North Washington district in 2015, becoming Adam County Fire Rescue.
After spending years helping others as a first responder, McDonald decided to retire last year.
His brother, Dean McDonald, said Mark had planned to get his commercial driver's license and start a new job, but the coronavirus got in the way.
He said Mark was working part-time at the airport when he started feeling ill.
"He was experiencing body aches and pains," Dean said. "He went in (to work,) was there for two hours, and just didn't feel well."
Dean said it was rare for Mark to either not go to work, or to go home sick.
"The next day, our supervisor called the city and they said he needed to get tested because it might be COVID," Dean said. "He tested positive."
Mark has now been in the hospital for 40 days.
"It's been tough," Dean told Denver7, his voice cracking with emotion. "He's always with us. He's a bachelor, so he spends a lot of time with us here, and we miss him."
Dean's wife, Theda, said Mark showed some slight improvement last week, when he was taken off the ventilator, but this week he has regressed.
She said he is now experiencing a serious fever.
"His temperature is up to 103 degrees. Doctors are trying to determine if he has some kind of infection," she said.
Family members say Mark could use some prayers right now. They said he's the type of person who has always helped others, whether as a first responder/EMT, working at a booth during the pandemic, or helping out at his brother's house.
"He's extremely helpful whenever something breaks in our house," Theda said. "They call Mark first, the boys do. Mark's their second dad. He's with us, like Dean said, all the time."
A 10-year-old Bichon Frise is another example of Mark's big heart.
"Her name is Duchess," said Mark's nephew, Gavin McDonald.
He said Duchess belonged to a good family friend named Tom.
"Tom was a very, very nice guy," Gavin said. "He was always nervous about what would happen with the dog. The dog was literally the thing that kept him alive after his wife passed away."
When Tom got sick with cancer, he wondered who might take care of Duchess.
"Well, of course, Mark being helpful and a volunteer, he called, and said, 'you know Tom, I'll take care of your dog.'"
Now, it's Mark battling for his life.
He hasn't been able to work, make mortgage payments, or pay other bills while he's in the hospital.
Dean, his wife, and their two sons are now taking care of Duchess.
They've set up a GoFundMe account to help pay Mark's mortgage, while he's in the hospital and convalescing at home.
Those first few months of convalescence may well take place at Dean and Theda's house, so everyone can help.
"We're grateful for everyone who has reached out," she said.
The boys just want to see their uncle healthy again, so he can take them camping.
"Right before he went to the hospital, he was talking to me," Gavin said. "He just got a CDL, and said, is it alright if I miss your graduation if I'm on training? I said of course. You do what you need, and now he's not going to be here, or working for a job."
The family wants to be there for him, when he gets out of the hospital.