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It wasn’t until Kious Kelly was intubated in the ICU that his sister found out he had the COVID-19.
Marya Patrice Sherron, Kelly’s only sibling, told BuzzFeed News she received a text from him on March 18 saying that he was “sick in the ICU, but OK.”
He told her not to tell their parents because he didn’t want them to worry.
Their parents knew that Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse at New York City’s Mount Sinai West hospital, tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, days ago. But they weren’t aware that his condition had deteriorated; Kelly, who had asthma, told them it was mild and that he was doing fine.
“He’s always been protective of me [and] my parents. I knew he didn’t want them to worry,” Sherron said.
“I asked him a couple more questions, and he said he can’t talk. ‘I choke if I try. Can’t breathe. I love you,'” Sherron recalled him saying. “And he said he was tired and he would lay down and wanted go to sleep.”
Six days later, on Tuesday evening, the hospital informed her family that Kelly had died.
Kious Kelly and Marya Patrice Sherron with her son and their family friend’s baby,
In the week following her brother’s death, Sherron said she’s received a mountain of supportive messages from friends, coworkers, and even strangers from around the world.
A GoFundMe campaign raising money for his funeral expenses was filled with tributes to Kelly.
“I was waiting for you to come to work at 11AM. An hour had passed still no Kious. It’s getting real you’re not coming back,” one coworker was quoted as saying.
“This did not need to happen, you did not have to die,” another coworker said on the GoFundMe page. “This is a life lost in vain. Many lives are sacrificed by the poor management of this COVID-19 crisis. This has to stop. Lives over profits. Humanity over politics.”
Sherron said the outpouring of love and support from people has meant a lot to her. But there was one hateful remark that threw her off.
“It was a very, very, very hateful and insensitive comment suggesting that [Kelly’s death] didn’t matter because he was a gay male,” she said.
“My husband had to remind me it’s just one comment [out] of the abundance of love from around the world. And I just decided to try more to see that and receive it,” Sherron added. “It’s humbling. It’s unreal, really. You feel like you’re not alone going through this.”
Along with messages of support, Sherron has been receiving first-hand accounts from doctors and nurses who are treating coronavirus patients without adequate protective gear.
Reports about exhausted health care workers being forced to reuse N-95 masks or cobble together makeshift protective gear have led to widespread concern for frontline medical workers. At Mount Sinai West, Kelly’s coworkers were pictured wearing trash bags to protect themselves from the virus.
There are issues beyond the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), Sherron said, but to her, it’s the most urgent problem to address right now.
With proper protection, she believes Kelly would have been less likely to contract the coronavirus in the first place.
Kious Kelly, right, and a colleague.
She was especially concerned about one of them who tested positive for the coronavirus at the same time as Kelly.
“I checked on him yesterday and then I didn’t hear anything back. I woke up this morning and that was the first thing on my mind: please let him be OK,” she said. “I’m just fearful now, for everybody.”
Sherron said advocating for health care workers in this unprecedented time is what her brother would have done, too.
“I think Kious would want to save everybody in that unit that he can, everyone at the hospital, and everyone else who was in this situation,” she said. “That’s what needs to be done. I can sit at home and process and deal with this later, but right now we need to save lives.”
- Doctors And Nurses Fighting The Coronavirus Outbreak Are Getting Sick And Dying — And No One Is Keeping TrackZahra Hirji · March 26, 2020
- A Chilling Account From A Doctor At The Center Of The Coronavirus CrisisJoseph Bernstein · March 26, 2020
- A Nurse Shared A Harrowing Photo Of COVID-19 Victims To Show How Horrifying The Outbreak IsMiriam Elder · March 29, 2020
- These Updating Charts Show How The Coronavirus Is Spreading Across The USPeter Aldhous · March 9, 2020
Clarissa-Jan Lim is a reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News. She is based in New York.
Contact Clarissa-Jan Lim at [email protected]
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