Alone To Die, Heartbreaking Texts From Front-Line Worker With COVID-19

The deadly coronavirus has taken a toll on many families. For the selfless souls facing it daily as they work on the front lines, home and family life is even harder.

Madhvi Aya was a doctor in India, but upon immigrating to the United States, she trained to become a physician assistant. Aya worked for over twelve years at Woodhull Medical Center, a public hospital in Brooklyn, where she witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of the coronavirus.

Aya soon found herself on the other side of care -- within days of her last shift working in the understaffed emergency room, taking medical histories, ordering tests and asking about symptoms, she became a patient.

Less than two miles away from her 18-year-old daughter and her husband on Long Island, Aya, 61, was left alone in a hospital room.

“I have not improved the way I should have been,” is what she wrote to her husband, Raj, on March 23.

Two days later, on March 25, Minnoli, her daughter texted, saying, “I miss you mommy. Please don’t give up hope because I haven’t given up. I need my mommy. I need you to come back to me.”

The next day, Aya wrote, “Love you.”

“Mom be back.”

That was Aya’s final text to her family.

Those who are working on the front lines are at a much higher risk of being exposed and contracting the coronavirus. Yet it’s unclear just how many have died in New York from the virus after working with COVID-19 patients.

(via NY Times): Health care systems by and large have not publicly revealed the identities of those employees, who include Kious Kelly, a nurse manager at Mount Sinai West in Manhattan, and Dr. Ronald Verrier, a surgeon at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. Doctors, nurses and staffers who worked in other capacities at hospitals that have been flooded with virus patients have also died, according to their families and colleagues.

Another Woodhull employee, a radiology clerk named Thomas Soto, died of the virus at the hospital last week, 12 days after his first symptoms. Mr. Soto, 59, worked there for decades and was close to retirement. “The only reason my dad pushed to work that extra year was to retire with full pension, and I lost him because of that,” Jonathan Soto, the older of Mr. Soto’s two sons, said through tears.

A former hospital police officer, Herb A. Houchen, 35, returned to Woodhull as a COVID patient and also died. He had worked at Woodhull for more than five years and left behind an 11-year-old daughter.

Aya devoted her life to medicine before succumbing to the familiar arc of a patient with COVID-19.

Her early symptoms consisted of a mild cough the days of her last shift on March 12. Mr. Aya drove her to Woodhull the next evening, picking her up hours later after she was tested.

Waiting for the test results to come back, they quarantined on different floors fearing she may give the virus to her husband and mother.

Her cough began to worsen at home, and she developed a fever. On March 18, Mr. Aya dropped his wife off at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, near their home. That would be the last time Mr. Aya would see her.

Mr. Aya waited in the car for an hour and a half texting his wife in the hospital parking lot, checking to see if she had received a chest X-ray and to say that he had tried to see her.

“You go home I call you I am waiting,” she texted.

At 4:47 a.m. the next day, Ms. Aya messaged back that she was still waiting for a bed. Mr. Aya wanted to bring her coffee, but she replied no. She reported her test has come back from Woodhull indicating that she was positive for COVID-19.

“I’m so sorry to hear,” he replied.

Finally speaking on the phone, she told him to take care of her mother and bring her daughter home from school.

The next day, Minnoli Aya returned from the University at Buffalo, where she attended as a freshman.

“I was just on the floor, and I was broken,” Minnoli said.

Doctors called and kept Mr. Aya updated daily over the course of the next week. By the end of the week, his wife was deteriorating and was increasingly having trouble breathing.

On the morning of March 29, doctors were preparing to put Ms. Aya on a ventilator, but due to a life-threatening complication, they asked Mr. Aya if he wanted to see her for what could be his last time.

Because of his underlying heart condition, he worried that he would also be putting himself at risk, leaving his daughter parentless.

That afternoon, Mr. Aya received a call saying that his wife had died. The decision to not see her has haunted him,

“She was always there for us, whenever we wanted,” her husband said. But when she got sick, “no one was next to her,” he said.