Coronavirus takes beloved mother, Dallas health care worker

Isabelle Papadimitriou got here dwelling from her shift as a respiratory therapist on the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas like all the time, by way of the again gate with the canine excited to greet her.

However that Sunday, June 28, she informed her son that she wasn’t feeling effectively. The day earlier than she took notice of her signs in a journal: dizziness, lightheaded, chills, physique aches, big headache, shaking and drowsy and a fever at 100.eight levels.

“Abruptly at 10:30 p.m.,” she wrote.

Every week afterward the Fourth of July she died of COVID-19, the illness attributable to the novel coronavirus. By the point she arrived on the hospital, her lungs have been crammed with fluid and medical doctors mentioned that she had suffered mind trauma attributable to an absence of oxygen.

“My mother was a very sturdy girl, and we simply thought she would make it by way of, despite the fact that she was 64. And I believe we’re all in disbelief as a result of it occurred actually, actually quick,” mentioned Fiana Tulip, Papadimitriou’s 39-year-old daughter.

Identified for her positivity, her love of studying, her religion and her household, Papadimitriou’s sudden loss of life has left those that knew her reeling. Her son, who she lived with, grieves with emotions of guilt, questioning why the virus took her and never him. Her daughter has begun to jot down a letter to Papadimitriou each week to maintain her spirit alive, and possibly at some point she’ll share them together with her 10-month-old daughter, Lua, who barely acquired to know the grandmother that cherished her a lot. For a few of her coworkers, Papadimitriou’s loss of life is a sobering reminder of the final word value well being care staff on the entrance traces threat paying.

‘It was concerning the affected person — and her second’

Papadimitriou was the sort of one that all the time put others first. Even when she was sick with COVID, she didn’t need her family and friends to fret.

In her journal, Papadimitriou wrote she was in fixed prayer for her 49-year-old son, Isaac Elizondo, who she lived with, as a result of she feared he too would catch the virus. After initially testing damaging, Elizondo later examined constructive for COVID-19 the day she died.

Tulip, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, together with her husband and their daughter, Lua, mentioned she hadn’t discovered her mother had examined constructive till two days after Papadimitriou acquired the outcomes. Elizondo had despatched her a textual content, regardless of their mother’s protests. Even then, when Tulip texted, her mom reassured her that she can be OK and would struggle it.

“I want I might really feel higher, however I’m not. Take pleasure in your journey. I didn’t need you to consider me throughout your journey, that’s why I hadn’t informed you. I like you, and that candy Princess is my purpose to struggle this,” Papadimitriou texted Tulip on July 2, referring to her granddaughter Lua as her princess.

Papadimitriou’s selflessness was evident in her work. Compassion was certainly one of her driving forces, and she or he would typically sit and stick with sufferers, giving them somebody to speak to amid their restoration.

“For her it was concerning the affected person — and her second,” Elizondo mentioned.

It was one of many causes Elizondo mentioned his mother wouldn’t stop when he pleaded together with her in March to retire early. She wouldn’t even contemplate it, he mentioned. Her work was her life, and she or he insisted she would keep protected because the pandemic started to unfold. Now, Elizondo wonders if he ought to have pushed more durable.

That very same take care of sufferers prolonged to her coworkers.

“She was like one other mother to me,” Religion Culver, a nurse who labored with Papadimitriou, mentioned. “I misplaced my mom just a little over a 12 months in the past and she or he was all the time there for me.”

Jesse Ortez, a nurse who additionally labored with Papadimitriou, mentioned he’ll miss the little moments. Whether or not it was Papadimitriou dancing within the break room, catching up over a fast lunch after they had 5 minutes to spare or their frequent get-togethers for birthdays, dinners and holidays with what they lovingly known as “the Gang.”

She was each motherly — wanting one of the best out of all people — and a ray of sunshine for the group, in a position to joke and be simply as foolish as everybody else, Ortez mentioned.

“When anyone is that constructive in your life, and so they’re taken away so fast, you begin to notice how life is so fragile,” Ortez mentioned.

Her kids have been in awe of the outpouring of affection and help for his or her mom, who took time to domesticate relationships even in small, each day encounters with others.

“You don’t know who you’re touching. You don’t know who you’re affecting, so take time for everybody,” Elizondo mentioned. “We have to be taught to forgive. To be good to folks. To cherish all relationships.”

A resilient spirit

From the beginning, Papadimitriou’s life was marked by hardship. Papadimitriou was born in 1956 in Brownsville, to a single mom who had nowhere to depart her child in the course of the day, mentioned Victoria Borrego, who grew up with Papadimitriou and was like her adopted sister. Papadimitriou’s mom labored for Borrego’s father on the time.

“She began to convey her to work, to the workplace and my father informed her, ‘This isn’t a approach to elevate a child. Would you like me to ask my spouse? Perhaps she will watch her in the course of the day when you’re at work,’” Borrego recounted her father providing to Papadimitriou’s mom.

Borrego’s household didn’t hesitate to take Papadimitriou underneath their wing. They referred to as her Obie, a mixture of Isabelle and Odette — her baptismal title that was too laborious for the children to pronounce.

“We did the whole lot collectively,” Borrego mentioned. “She was a part of our household.”

Elizondo and Tulip recall that their mom’s childhood — whereas marked by completely satisfied moments — was tough. Papadimitriou acquired married, had her first little one, Isaac, at 14, and moved to Chicago.

She later returned to Brownsville, acquired her GED and ended up shifting all through Texas, spending time in Austin and the Dallas Fort-Price space as she studied to transition from being a financial institution teller to a respiratory therapist.

Papadimitriou’s third and final divorce within the ‘90s took a toll on her, her youngsters mentioned. They bear in mind it as a darkish time, however that Papadimitriou had been looking to rediscover her happiness. Tulip remembers when she was younger, she and Papadimitriou would march round the home chanting, ‘Struggle for what you already know is correct.’” It’s a mantra that embodied Papadimitriou’s sense of resilience.

“She knew that if she let these laborious instances knock her down so laborious that she stayed on this darkish place that she wouldn’t be capable to get what she wished,” Tulip mentioned. “So she needed to choose herself up and simply preserve believing and preserve praying.”

One of many issues that introduced her probably the most pleasure was her granddaughter.

‘You don’t perceive the hospital’s worse’

Papadimitriou cherished kids, and was recognized to ship kids’s books to pals for their very own youngsters. When Tulip had Lua in August 2019, Papadimitriou had a grandchild of her personal to dote after.

She gushed about Lua to anybody who would hear. Her coworkers recall her continually displaying them images of Lua, even when that they had already seen them posted to social media. When Papadimitriou visited Lua in New York, she all the time knew simply what to do, and regardless of the months that separated her visits they immediately bonded every time.

Papadimitriou had a visit scheduled to see Lua in late June. She couldn’t wait, and coworkers mentioned it was one thing she talked about continually. However rising instances made the journey too dangerous. She ended up canceling.

As a substitute, Papadimitriou went into work to assist with the surge. She examined constructive for COVID-19 on June 29, the third day she had been experiencing signs.

“The times that she was purported to be in New York … that’s when she acquired sick,” Elizondo mentioned. “No person knew the place it was. Nevertheless it was within the constructing.”

A spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White declined to reply questions on whether or not Papadimitriou was working instantly with COVID-19 sufferers who had energetic infections.

“Isabelle’s ardour and devotion for serving others, and the real kindness she expressed to these she encountered can be deeply missed,” mentioned an announcement from the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation. “We prolong our honest condolences to her household, whom she spoke of typically with immense delight.”

Within the days after she had gotten examined, Papadimitriou waved off strategies to go to the hospital. Borrego recounted Papadimitriou telling her, “’You don’t perceive, the hospital’s worse.’”

In her journal, Papadimitriou detailed how the virus start to take maintain.

“July 1. This was not a superb day. I had a fever of 102 within the night. I spend most of my day in mattress. I rotate to empty the lungs, facet to facet and abdomen to again. Isaac brings Wendy’s rooster sandwich. I can barely eat it,” Elizondo learn from his mom’s journal.

“July 2, 2020. Nonetheless not feeling effectively at this time. I’ve numerous coughing this morning. Really feel weak.”

That was Papadimitriou’s remaining entry. As Friday evening stretched into Saturday morning, Papadimitriou’s situation plummeted. Elizondo’s cellphone rang. It was Papadimitriou. She wanted him.

“I’m working throughout the home, working to her room, and it regarded like she had had a stroke as a result of she was slurring,” Elizondo mentioned. “She couldn’t discuss.”

Elizondo referred to as for an ambulance. They raced to Medical Metropolis Las Colinas in Irving, and by the point they reached the hospital Papadimitriou had misplaced her pulse no less than 3 times, Elizondo mentioned.

Docs informed him that her dilated eyes meant that she had seemingly suffered mind trauma attributable to an absence of oxygen. It could be a miracle if she survived, and even then she would seemingly be in a vegetative state.

Elizondo willed his mother to get well, letting her know the way a lot she was cherished and the way they wanted her. However as he watched the hospital workers attempt to preserve her alive, he realized it was time to let her go.

Within the days since he has needed to beat again his personal fears of what is going to occur to him now that he’s examined constructive for COVID-19. Folks have dropped off groceries and his neighbors invited him to talk on the curb from a distance. However attributable to his constructive check end result, he’s principally been alone to navigate his grief in a home that holds reminders of Papadimitriou in each room. The nights are hardest, and he leaves the again door open, anticipating her to stroll by way of the gate like all the time.

Tulip didn’t get to say goodbye to her mother the day she died. She and her brother have poured their vitality into memorializing their mother, and started a GoFundMe to help cover the costs of her funeral, with the hopes she will return to Brownsville. They plan to donate any more money to help the households of entrance line well being care staff who died from the virus.

Someday when Lua is older, Tulip will inform her about her grandmother, who gave her life to avoid wasting others. And it’s one of many final issues she wished she might have informed Papadimitriou.

“She was my mother, I by no means actually considered her as a entrance line hero. Right here on a regular basis at 7 p.m. we’re clapping for the frontline heroes, I by no means thought I used to be clapping for my mother,” Tulip mentioned. “One of many issues I so want I might inform her was that I used to be pleased with her.”

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Tessa Weinberg is a state authorities reporter for the Star-Telegram. Primarily based in Austin, she covers all issues coverage and politics with a give attention to Tarrant County. She beforehand lined the Missouri legislature the place her reporting prompted an investigation by the Legal professional Basic’s workplace. A California native and graduate of the College of Missouri, she’s made her manner throughout the U.S. and landed in Texas in Could 2019.

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