A Retired Black Nurse Is The First Person In Illinois To Die From Coronavirus
Her family is struggling to mourn her death as the coronavirus outbreak puts restrictions on gatherings and traveling.
March 20, 2020 at 3:52 pm
The first Illinois resident to die from COVID-19 has been identified as Patricia Frieson, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The 61-year-old retired nurse suffered from an underlying medical condition, which made her more susceptible to the virus. Patricia first noticed something was wrong about two weeks ago when her asthma flared up. When her family took her to the University of Chicago Medical Center, they didn’t even have the virus in mind.
“They red-flagged her because of her asthma and the fact she was having trouble breathing, then moved her to E.R., where she was ultimately diagnosed with pneumonia,” her brother, Anthony Frieson told the Sun-Times. “She was admitted and tested for COVID-19.”
Because of the circumstances, Patricia's family was not allowed to see her while she was quarantined in the intensive care unit on a ventilator, but when they had called her, she seemed to be getting better. She died four days after initially getting to the hospital.
“We weren’t allowed to come to the hospital to see Pat, which is the painful part about all this,” Anthony said. “We understand why. But that’s the really difficult thing at the end, the isolation. You end up with the sadness of not being able to be with her when she passes, the sadness of it seeming like they are alone, when you know they are not.”
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker addressed Patricia’s COVID-19 diagnosis in a press conference.
“I’m deeply saddened to share news that I have dreaded since the earliest days of this outbreak, the first COVID-19-related death in Illinois,” he said. “I want to extend my deepest condolences to her family members. I want them to know that the entire state of Illinois mourns with them. May her memory be a blessing.”
While Patricia’s death is the first in Illinois related to the novel virus, her family isn’t focusing on the numbers right now.
“All of this is overwhelming,” said Anthony. “Being the first to die of it here is just a barrier to our grieving. It could have been the 10th, doesn’t matter. The whole point is, she’s not here anymore."
They are now struggling with properly mourning their loved one given the restrictions of the pandemic. Patricia’s nephew is remembering his aunt as a kindhearted singer.
“She loved to sing,” said Tarah Frieson. “She was just a good person all the way around. There was nothing you could really say bad about her. A lot of people loved her.”
Patricia is believed to have contracted the virus from a nursing home in DuPage County, which she was not a resident of, according to the Sun-Times.
Before she was diagnosed, she and her family had been in close contact, spending time together. Now, they worry about their own health.
“Pat’s house was the essential focus for any gathering. And so we’re hugging, we’re kissing. We weren’t operating under any restrictions. We didn’t know she had the virus,” said Anthony. “It’s very contagious. Everybody has been around her. We’ve been told we should all operate under the assumption we may have the virus.”
He is now under self-quarantine, after not only his sister, but one of his friends also contracted the virus. Anthony is awaiting his own test results.
“So not only are we trying to deal with the loss of our family member but also concern for the rest of our family. The impact of this virus is so far-reaching you can’t even imagine it till you’re faced with it.”
The Chicago area has now reported 435 cases, according to NBC5 Chicago.