These Chicago, suburban health workers lost their lives to COVID-19


America’s well being care employees are dying. In some states, medical personnel account for as many as 20% of recognized coronavirus circumstances. They have a tendency to sufferers in hospitals, treating them, serving them meals, cleansing their rooms. Others in danger work in nursing houses or are employed as dwelling well being aides.

“Lost on the Frontline,” a collaboration between KHN and The Guardian, to this point has recognized 878 such employees who probably died of COVID-19 after serving to sufferers through the pandemic.

These, from the Chicago space, are a few of them, confirmed by members of the family, employers and medical experts.

Karon Hoffman.

Karon Hoffman.
Courtesy of Jenny Winkler

Karon Hoffman: At 65, nursing turned her second act

Age: 69

Occupation: Licensed sensible nurse

Workplace: Alden Terrace of McHenry

Date of loss of life: Might 18, 2020

Karon Hoffman’s daughter Jenny Winkler paid for her first faculty class to encourage her. That very same 12 months, Hoffman’s son Karl returned dwelling from the Military and in addition needed to take a course. Mom and son ended up in the identical introductory laptop class.

“She had the No. 1 grade within the class, and he had No. 2,” Winkler mentioned.

Hoffman beforehand labored as a 911 dispatcher, EMT and most not too long ago an actual property appraiser. At 65, when most of her friends have been enthusiastic about retirement, she graduated from a group faculty with excessive honors and an affiliate’s diploma in arts. She took the nursing licensing examination and handed.

She by no means let others inform her what to do, mentioned daughter Jessica Allen. Hoffman’s hobbies included canning dandelion jelly, gardening and going to storage gross sales together with her grandchildren.

In January, Hoffman began her first nursing job on the Alden Terrace rehabilitation heart after taking just a few years post-graduation to are inclined to her husband’s well being and her personal. She wanted the earnings to afford drugs that weren’t lined by Medicare, based on members of the family, who consider she was contaminated in early April, shortly after finishing orientation coaching.

Her household mentioned that facility’s nurses weren’t supplied private protecting tools until they have been engaged on the designated COVID-19 flooring, which Hoffman was not. But all employees used the identical break rooms, Winkler mentioned. Alden Terrace didn’t return repeated requests for remark.

— Theresa Gaffney, Metropolis College of New York

Dr. Joseph Bongiorno Sr.

Dr. Joseph Bongiorno Sr.
Courtesy of Joseph Bongiorno Jr.

Dr. Joseph Bongiorno Sr.: Discovered ‘the factor that made him glad’

Age: 78

Occupation: Psychiatrist

Workplace: Non-public observe, Chicago

Date of loss of life: April 14, 2020

Dr. Joseph Bongiorno labored for almost a decade with Dr. James Sullivan at Saint Joseph Hospital on the North Facet. Neither imagined the 2 of them would meet once more as physician and affected person in a pandemic.

They’d not seen one another since Bongiorno selected to focus completely on personal observe towards the tip of his profession.

“He was a one-on-one kind of particular person, you recognize, and I feel that’s sort of why he determined to do what he did with the final years of his life,” Sullivan mentioned. “He discovered the factor that made him glad.”

His daughter Madeleine mentioned he served as an Air Pressure Medical Service Corps officer offering psychiatric service to Vietnam Warfare returnees at Eglin Air Pressure Base in Florida. In 1974, he began his personal observe in Illinois and in addition supplied companies to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Bongiorno was hospitalized in mid-March and died after being on a ventilator for greater than 20 days.

“I’ve in all probability received 30 or 40 emails from sufferers who came upon, they usually all just about say that he saved their life together with his assist and adjusted their lives,” his son Joseph Bongiorno Jr. mentioned. “He by no means, ever, ever deliberate on retiring.”

— Ayse Eldes, College of Michigan

Felicia Ailende.

Felicia Ailende.
Courtesy of Elijah Ailende

Felicia Ailende: Nurse and minister tended to her sufferers, flock, backyard

Age: 67

Occupation: Registered nurse

Workplace: Bria of Forest Edge, Chicago

Date of loss of life: April 20, 2020

Felicia Ailende was a beacon to her household and members of Maranatha Chapel in Evergreen Park, the place she was a minister. She recommended many, serving to hold marriages intact and lives on observe, her son Elijah Ailende mentioned. Although her six youngsters have been very totally different from each other, she noticed one of the best in every.

An immigrant from Nigeria, she planted a backyard annually and used the produce to cook dinner West African dishes. When there have been too many cucumbers, sizzling peppers or greens, she shared with neighbors.

On the Bria of Forest Edge nursing dwelling, Ailende cooked for residents at instances or prayed for them, her son mentioned.

Administrator Julie Kosman mentioned Ailende was a hardworking nurse who was nice and humorous and had a terrific rapport with residents.

As of June 2, she was certainly one of three employees on the facility who had died of COVID-19; two residents additionally had died. The ability had reported 132 infections.

Elijah Ailende mentioned staffers needed to reuse surgical masks supplied by the ability. Directors didn’t inform them when residents and different employees members received the virus “so they may take precautions and safeguard their lives,” he mentioned.

Kosman mentioned “full PPE” — private protecting tools — was accessible to staffers and that there isn’t a motive to consider Ailende was uncovered to COVID-19 “inside our facility.” She “had no recognized contact with any resident or employees member who confirmed signs or had examined optimistic for COVID-19.”

— Christina Jewett, Kaiser Well being Information

Leola Grady and Howard Fox Jr., her son.

Leola Grady and Howard Fox Jr., her son.
Courtesy of Howard Fox Jr.

Leola Grady: She introduced a ‘calming presence,’ enjoyable to nursing dwelling

Age: 59

Occupation: Leisure aide

Workplace: Bria of Forest Edge, Chicago

Date of loss of life: April 10, 2020

Leola Grady had deliberate to be together with her son and granddaughter in Mississippi for Mom’s Day however didn’t reside to make the journey.

On the Bria of Forest Edge nursing dwelling, she entertained residents, generally with a “good sport of playing cards,” administrator Julie Kosman mentioned. “She had a relaxing presence about her.”

When Grady fell unwell, a nurse on the facility already was sick with the coronavirus. A nursing aide whose identify has not been launched additionally died of COVID-19. Employees on the facility, with SEIU union leaders, have mentioned they have been unaware their coworkers have been dying till they noticed it on the information.

Howard Fox Jr., Grady’s son, mentioned his mom was his greatest good friend — an sincere, simple and loving one that loved listening to the blues.

“I’m not going to sit down right here and sugarcoat it,” he mentioned. “It hurts. … I take a look at our image. I cry.”

Fox mentioned his mom went to a Chicago hospital with COVID signs however was despatched dwelling. She was discovered useless a number of days later. A Cook dinner County health worker’s spokesperson confirmed she died of pneumonia as a result of COVID-19.

Kosman mentioned the ability doesn’t consider Grady or the nurse, Felicia Ailende, “have been uncovered to COVID-19 inside our facility.”

As of Might 27, Bria of Forest Edge had reported 132 coronavirus circumstances and two deaths to Illinois officers. Kosman mentioned it reported employee deaths to the Occupational Security and Well being Administration, which exhibits three pending loss of life investigations on the facility.

— Christina Jewett, Kaiser Well being Information

Maria Lopez.

Maria Lopez.
Courtesy of Maria Lopez.

Maria Lopez: Robotic surgical procedure professional ‘simply made all the things enjoyable’

Age: 63

Occupation: Registered nurse

Workplace: College of Illinois Hospital at Chicago

Date of loss of life: Might 4, 2020

“What woman? I don’t see a girl right here.”

That was the type of self-deprecating remark Maria Lopez would fireplace again when teased by a coworker about an etiquette fake pas within the working room.

Lopez knew the best way to break the strain, mentioned chief nurse anesthetist Mary Ann Zervakis Brent, a colleague since 2005. Lopez referred to as everybody “amigo” or “amiga,” no matter rank.

“She simply made all the things enjoyable,” Zervakis Brent mentioned.

Lopez was an professional in robotic surgical procedure and educated others to make use of the tools.

She taught her two daughters to be unbiased. The oldest of 9 children, Lopez fought her father’s expectation that she forgo faculty, mentioned her daughter Maria, who was named for her.

Lopez’s signs appeared days after she returned to work from go away for knee surgical procedure. She had deliberate to retire April 30.

Within the hospital, Lopez tried to remain optimistic. But throughout one FaceTime name, her daughter mentioned, “She simply broke down. She mentioned, ‘I wouldn’t need anybody I like going via what I’m going via proper now.’ ”

A hospital official confirmed that Lopez died of issues of COVID-19.

— Mary Chris Jaklevic

Gabrail ‘Gabe’ Ismayl.

Gabrail ‘Gabe’ Ismayl.
Courtesy of Ismayl household

Gabrail ‘Gabe’ Ismayl: All the time upbeat, affected person transporter was a stitching wiz

Age: 62

Occupation: Affected person transport employee

Workplace: Swedish Hospital, Chicago

Date of loss of life: Might 6, 2020

Caring, upbeat, at all times first to reach at a celebration, Gabrail Ismayl beloved an excuse to don a swimsuit and splash on cologne.

That’s how Fidelline Youhanna remembers her uncle. “All people beloved Gaby,” she mentioned.

After migrating from Syria within the 1980s, Ismayl ran wholesale clothes outlets on the North Facet. He was a wiz with the stitching machine and loved altering clothes, making curtains and doing artistic initiatives for household and associates.

Later, his individuals abilities have been an asset as he wheeled sufferers the place they wanted to go.

Because the pandemic took maintain, Ismayl labored regardless of well being situations that elevated his danger, Youhanna mentioned.

“I feel he simply appreciated his job,” she mentioned. “He made a variety of associates there.”

On Might 6, Ismayl was self-isolating within the basement of the home he shared with two sisters. He was in need of breath, Youhanna mentioned. By night, he was useless.

Ismayl was employed by administration companies firm Sodexo. The CEO of its well being care division in North America, Catherine Tabaka, mentioned his passing “is a tragic loss for Sodexo and we mourn an unimaginable good friend and presence.”

— Mary Chris Jaklevic

Juan Martinez.

Juan Martinez.
Courtesy of the Martinez household.

Juan Martinez: Surgical technician taught his children to be ‘devoted to your job’

Age: 60

Occupation: Surgical technician

Workplace: College of Illinois Hospital at Chicago

Date of loss of life: April 27, 2020

It was simple to befriend Juan Martinez.

The surgical technician “may begin a dialog up with anybody about something,” mentioned Jose Moreno, an working room nurse and coworker.

He went out of his technique to train others what he’d realized from 34 years within the discipline, mentioned his son Juan Martinez Jr., who adopted his dad’s profession path on the similar hospital.

The navy veteran and former church pastor set an instance “to be devoted to your job,” his son mentioned.

As a result of retire April 30, Martinez anticipated spending time together with his grandchildren, touring and opening Bible schooling facilities in Mexico, his household mentioned.

After feeling drained and feverish, he went to be examined for COVID-19 on April 17. His signs have been so extreme that he was taken by ambulance to the hospital the place he labored.

Members of the family mentioned Martinez didn’t have interaction in direct affected person care however got here in touch with staffers who did.

Juan Martinez Jr. mentioned that dropping his dad has been like a nightmare and that he and his siblings are “leaning on the Lord and praying rather a lot, identical to how our father taught us.”

— Mary Chris Jaklevic

Anjanette Miller.

Anjanette Miller.
Courtesy of Venus Donasco-Delfin.

Anjanette Miller: Nurse was residing her dream of working in the US

Age: 38

Occupation: Registered nurse

Workplace: Neighborhood First Medical Middle and Kindred Chicago Lakeshore, Chicago, and Bridgeway Senior Residing, Bensenville

Date of loss of life: April 14, 2020

As a toddler, Anjanette Miller dreamed of turning into a nurse in the US. She studied in her native Philippines and labored briefly in Saudi Arabia earlier than fulfilling her want in 2001.

Miller settled in Chicago and labored as a supervising nurse at three amenities. Her sister Venus Donasco-Delfin mentioned Miller received alongside properly with coworkers who shared her work ethic.

“At work, I feel she was strict,” Donasco-Delfin mentioned. “However, past work, she’s a terrific good friend.”

One among 5 siblings, she was the “pillar of the household” and supported kin again dwelling.

“I studied psychology for 2 years,” Donasco-Delfin mentioned, “however she stored calling me [in the Philippines] and mentioned, ‘No, Venus. … It’s important to pursue nursing. You’ll make a distinction.’ ”

Donasco-Delfin, now in Canada, turned a nurse.

Miller began feeling sick in mid-March and was identified with COVID-19 in early April. She self-isolated, chronicling her sickness on YouTube and Fb. She was hospitalized April 5 and died 9 days later.

Miller had hoped to retire to the Philippines and pursue her different ardour, filmmaking. Final 12 months, she traveled again dwelling to shoot scenes for a challenge.

“The film she was making is about her life story,” Donasco-Delfin mentioned. “But it surely’s not completed but.”

— Danielle Renwick, The Guardian

This story is a part of the “Lost on the Frontline” challenge from The Guardian and KHN documenting the lives of well being care employees in the US who die from COVID-19 and investigating why so many are victims of the illness. If in case you have colleagues or family members we must always embody, please share their story.



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