MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Family and friends are continuing to grieve the loss of Andrew Atkins, a husband, father, friend and medical front-line hero who passed away in December due to complications related to COVID-19.
Atkins was a nurse practitioner at Ivy Creek Family Care in Millbrook. He was inspired to get into the medical field after receiving a life-saving liver transplant in 1993.
“He was huge on wanting to help other people because he was given that second chance at life,” said Shelly Atkins, Andrew’s wife of 21 years.
Shelly said the medication Andrew took for his liver weakened his kidneys, making him more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
Despite taking precautions to prevent infection, Atkins was diagnosed with the virus on Nov. 30.
“He was always really safe at work dressing in all the PPEs (personal protective equipment),” Atkins said. “I don’t even know if he got it at work, with COVID I realize you can get it anywhere.”
Atkins said within a matter of days of testing positive things went from bad to worse.
After eventually being placed in the hospital and on a ventilator, Andrew Atkins passed on Dec. 16. He was 48 years old.
Shelly Atkins said Andrew would have been among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but it came just weeks too late.
“We wished this vaccine had come out sooner, but God has a plan,” Atkins said. “I know why he was here. He did what he needed to do which I am thankful for.”
Shelly caught the virus just days before his passing, permitting her from seeing him in his final days.
“I was not able to get that last goodbye which I really wanted,” Atkins said with tears in her eyes.
The couple was married for 21 years.
“He was my perfect soulmate, and he will be truly missed,” Atkins said.
Shelly said Andrew was a family man with a larger than life personality. He enjoyed traveling, painting, spending time with family and friends, and dedicating his time to his patients at work.
“His main goal was to take care of people and I’m just glad he was able to do that because I know that was his calling and why he was here,” Atkins said. “He did what he needed to do.”
Atkins said they worked hard and played hard, traveling any chance they got.
“If I could give any advice to anyone that’s what I would say to do is to live life to the fullest because you’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” Atkins said.
Atkins urges people in the community to take this virus seriously.
“I never dreamed I’d be in this position,” Atkins said. “He was completely healthy on Thanksgiving Day and just from one day to the next how it can change. I want to get the message that people should take COVID seriously because a lot of people don’t, and they think they are OK if they are younger, but that’s not necessarily true, because he was 48.”
Andrew’s 17-year-old daughter Sydney graduates from high school this year. Shelly said Sydney and Andrew were best friends. Shelby plans to follow in her father’s footsteps and pursue a career in the medical field in honor of her father.