Lost on the front lines: Healthcare workers who died fighting COVID-19

Business News | 27 Nov, 2020 |

Healthcare workers across the country have risked their lives to care for COVID-19 patients, and Cronkite News reporters teamed up with the Guardian and Kaiser Health News to tell some of the stories of those who died because of exposure to the novel coronavirus. These are the stories of healthcare workers who died fighting COVID-19.

Mark Daughterty: Nursing assistant played music for patients

Age: 60
Location: Casa Grande, Arizona
Workplace: Oasis Pavilion Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Occupation: Certified nursing assistant

With five children and 15 grandchildren, Mark Daugherty was a “fun-guy prankster” who stayed up late playing Uno at restaurants, volunteered to feed the homeless and held karaoke nights with his family, according to his daughter, Stacy Daugherty.

Daugherty had “such a loving and caring personality,” his daughter said.

“He gave as much as he could for everyone who needed it without asking for anything in return. ”

Daugherty worked as a certified nursing assistant for the Oasis Pavilion Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He played multiple instruments, including the accordion, banjo, piano and harmonica.

“His patients enjoyed hearing his music he played on the weekends,” according to Amber Moore, the center’s director of nurses. “Mark will be deeply missed.”

On May 19, Daugherty called out of work and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was discharged the same day. A few days later, he was back in the hospital and tested positive for COVID-19, Moore confirmed. His daughter said he had access to personal protective equipment and wore an N95 mask.

“As we all know, COVID-19 is widespread throughout the community so it is impossible to say where Mark contracted the virus,” Moore said.

Daugherty, who had recently become an ordained minister, planned to open a ministry with daughter Stacy. She’s now finishing her classes so she “can carry on that legacy.”

Daugherty died June 19.

— Hannah Foote

Dorothy ‘Pearl’ Davis: A passionate cook who ‘rarely got sick’

Age: 60
Location: San Antonio
Workplace: Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Occupation: Certified nursing assistant

Funny, outspoken and “the life of the party” – that’s how the family describes “Pearl” Davis, a passionate woman who cooked a mean dish of ribs with a side of greens, said her niece, Tanya Renee.

So many favorite foods came out of Davis’ kitchen, she said, “I can’t even choose.”

In early March, Davis fell ill after reporting that a co-worker had sneezed on her. A doctor thought she had the flu.

Davis cared for patients despite her condition and even cooked for a family funeral on March 20. She grew sicker and family members urged her to get a coronavirus test. Hospitalized on March 27, she tested positive.

Her workplace reported a COVID-19 outbreak, with six staff members and six patients testing positive as of April 1. The numbers climbed in the following weeks.

Renee said her aunt, who did not have preexisting medical conditions and “very rarely got sick,” was not provided proper PPE. The nursing center did not respond to requests for comment.

The family said goodbye to Davis over a Zoom call. She died two days later – the first nursing home employee in San Antonio lost to COVID-19.

Davis died May 10.

— Caitlynn McDaniel

Arthur Tayengco: Octogenarian OB-GYN was not ready to retire

Age: 81
Location: Las Vegas
Workplace: Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center
Occupation: OB/GYN

No matter how devoted he was to his patients, Dr. Arthur Tayengco always made a point to eat dinner with his children when they lived together, recalled his eldest daughter, Michele Tayengco.

As an obstetrician-gynecologist at his private practice, Dr. Tayengco worked well past retirement age and had close relationships with his patients, who viewed him as “kind, caring, compassionate,” Michele said. “They found him funny. He was charming.”

Tayengco was born in Iloilo City, Philippines, and came to the United States in the 1960s to continue his work in New York, according to the Asian Journal.

When he wasn’t seeing patients, Tayengco worked as a clinical professor with residents at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas School of Medicine. He “had a love of learning” and left an impact on many college students and patients, his daughter said.

Sunrise officials declined to comment.

“I’m confident he was not (infected) at the medical school campus,” said Paul Joncich, a UNLV spokesman.

After experiencing symptoms of fever and loss of taste in late March, Tayengco immediately self-isolated and tested positive for COVID-19. He was then hospitalized April 5 and died weeks later.

Michele suspects a patient could have unknowingly infected her father while he was working.

“You always hope your parents die in their sleep,” she said. “This was so not peaceful.”

Tayengco died April 22.

— Hannah Foote

Emmanuel Gomez: He kept the machines – and his soccer players – running

Age: 49
Location: Los Angeles
Workplace: Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
Occupation: Facility management electrician

Although she had worked with him for only a year, Laura Newman said Emmanuel Gomez was the best electrician she had ever known.

Their work maintaining the machines that keep patients alive is indispensable.

“He was outstanding as a human being who provided for his wife and three sons,” Newman said.

Born in El Salvador, Gomez had worked at the center since 2017, according to his obituary. He was a soccer fan and coach.

Jesse Alvarado, one of his former players, honored “Coach Manny” on his obit page as “such a wonderful, kind and caring man.”

Gomez’s family did not respond to requests for comment.

In April, four members of Teamsters Local 2010 contracted COVID-19, Newman said. Gomez is the only employee at the medical center known to have died from the disease, a UCLA Health spokesperson said.

After Gomez’s death, UCLA’s administrative vice-chancellor offered condolences to Gomez’s family in a statement. Michael Beck said he was “especially grateful” for the essential workers “who continue to report to campus to support hospital … and other critical campus operations.” Beck did not describe safety protocols in place to protect them.

The union has demanded better protection for its workers since Gomez’s death.

Gomez died April 24.

— Haley Lorenzen

For more profiles and an interactive that allows you to explore key findings about the deaths of health care workers during COVID-19, visit the Guardian.

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