"Coming home soon," Madhvi Aya wrote from her hospital bed. "I love you."
It was the last exchange she had with her only daughter, 18-year-old Minnoli. Madhvi Aya died of COVID-19 three days later.
Aya, 61, was a medical nurse who had treated coronavirus patients. Then she became a patient herself.
She was admitted to the Long Island Jewish Medical Center on March 18 after an infection and died 11 days later. Her family believes that she contracted respiratory disease at her workplace – the Woodhull Hospital emergency room in Brooklyn, New York.
She told her husband and daughter that she only treated infected patients with a surgical mask that offered little protection against airborne infections. Woodhull Hospital declined to comment on Aya's case or to examine whether she was able to provide sufficient protective equipment to her staff in the face of widespread national shortages.
Aya is one of the 51 U.S. health care workers that Reuters has found to have died after being diagnosed or diagnosed with the virus. This includes nurses, doctors, and technicians who died after an illness in the United States. This emerges from interviews with hospitals, union representatives and families, as well as a Reuters review of local media reports and obituaries.
There is no official list of deaths among US healthcare workers, and the total could be much higher than the number counted by Reuters.
Minnoli is a freshman from the State University of New York in Buffalo with the hope of becoming a cardiothoracic trauma surgeon. She still texted her mother days after her death.
"I kept texting her to believe it wasn't true," said Minnoli. "She deserves to live and see how I graduate, become a doctor, marry, and have children."
Determined to create a good life for her daughter, Aya became a medical nurse, a task that included 12-hour shifts in her Brooklyn hospital emergency room.
Since March 1, when the first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York, 28,183 people in Brooklyn have tested positive and 1,869 people have died, which is more than 28% of coronavirus deaths confirmed in New York City.
Risk your life
To date, more than 28,440 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.
Of the 51 healthcare worker deaths identified by Reuters, at least 16 were in New York, one of the hardest hit states. At least seven were in Michigan, six in Florida, and six in New Jersey.
At least 27 were nurses.
This includes Patrick Cain, 52, an intensive care nurse in Flint, Michigan, originally from Canada. When he died, the hospital played "Oh Canada", the national anthem, over the speakers, according to another nurse at the hospital.
"Everyone knew it at the time," said the nurse.
His obituary in the Flint Journal describes him as a passionate nurse who always works for patients. "He cared for those in need who were exposed to the corona virus that eventually cost him his life," he said in his obituary.
At least 10 of the deceased were doctors or resident doctors. Florida doctor Alex Hsu's daughter, Dria, described him as calm and soothing, saying that he made others feel heard and important. The 67-year-old is the "epitome of self-sacrifice and selflessness," Dria told Reuters.
"He is our hero," she said.
Emergency doctor Frank Gabrin, who worked in two hospitals in the New York region and died of COVID-19 last month, believed he was infected with the virus while being forced to reuse the same n-95 mask due to a lack best friend Debra Lyons.
"He said it was because the mask had to be worn four layers in a row," said Lyons in a phone interview. "He got the kit on the first night of his first shift, and he used the same kit for all four shifts, 12-hour shifts."
At least five of the deaths identified by Reuters were hospital technicians and at least four were rescue workers.
The youngest deceased healthcare worker Reuters found was only 20 years old: Valeria Viveros, a nursing assistant in Riverside, California. At least 15 people were in the sixties and 12 in the fifties.
A kiss before work
If Madhvi Aya was afraid to treat coronavirus patients without the recommended N-95 mask, she never said so, said her husband Raj, a retired accountant.
She was an optimist who rarely called sick or took a day off, Raj told Reuters.
Aya, who immigrated from India with her husband in 1993, woke up at 4 a.m. and kissed her daughter on the forehead before going to work.
The shifts in the emergency room were exhausting. When Raj picked up his wife from work in the evening, she was usually quiet on the way home. She would have to close her eyes for 15 minutes before speaking.
"The emergency room is like a war zone," said Raj. "Although I was very close to her, she would never discuss it."
In mid-March she developed a cough and fever. Raj convinced her to report sick on March 14 and took her to Woodhull Hospital for a coronavirus test.
At home, she soon needed Raj's help to get dressed. She was too weak to stand up. Her fever continued.
On March 18, she asked Raj to take her to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the hospital closest to her home in Long Island's Floral Park. He was waiting outside in the car and was unable to enter due to the hospital's non-visit policy.
It was approved. She received Woodhull's coronavirus test result the same day: positive.
Minnoli returned home on March 20 after the class was put online. She tried calling her mother for a week, but Aya was too weak to answer.
"I still pray that you will come to my home safely. I need you, mom," Minnoli wrote on March 25. "None of us can live without you. I believe in you, please defend yourself. You are so strong mom. I love so much more than you can imagine."
"I love you," wrote her mother back. "Mom be back."
"Mr. Aya, we are sorry"
Raj called the hospital every day for updates. He learned that Aya was receiving intravenous fluids and oxygen. As the days passed, she began to have difficulty breathing.
On March 28, the doctor who treated Aya raised the possibility of intubation as a last attempt to increase her oxygen levels, Raj said.
In her last texts to Raj on Saturday, she asked her husband, her brother, a doctor in India, to consult if she should consent to intubation. Raj read intubation online, contacted her family and consulted friends.
They told him that he had to say that intubation was a last resort.
The medical team tried to intubate her on Sunday, March 29th. During the insertion of the breathing tube, doctors discovered blood clots in her lungs, Raj said. They tried to remove them, but they were unsuccessful.
"Mr. Aya, we are sorry," said the person who called from the hospital to tell him that his wife had died.
Aya's death was announced by the New York Times today.
Woodhull Hospital spokeswoman Michelle Hernandez said Aya was one of three hospital staff members who recently died, but declined to say whether the others had succumbed to COVID-19.
Two weeks after Aya's death, Minnoli sleeps in the living room downstairs to avoid her mother's bedroom upstairs. You and Raj have lost the "super mom" that held the family together, Minnoli said. They have also lost their health insurance and income.
A friend raised over $ 46,000 for Raj and Minnoli through a GoFundMe campaign to help cover their expenses. Several Aya employees and friends contributed to this.
"For me, Madhvi was more than just a colleague. She was a great friend and mentor," wrote one on the campaign page.
"I will always remember you," said another.
Every night in New York City, neighborhoods of hospitals cheer healthcare workers for thanking them for the risks they take to save lives. Minnoli watches videos of applause on social media.
"I can't help thinking what about those who fell? What about those who are already dead?" Said Minnoli. "She was a heroine who went unnoticed."
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)