Faces of COVID-19: Constellation Named After ‘The Breathing Lady'

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The COVID-19 pandemic started just over one year ago, and families across North Texas have shared their stories of loss.

One story stood out to NBC 5 viewers -- that of Maisha Oni Muhammad-Brinkley.

Muhammad-Brinkley was a respiratory therapist at Medical City Dallas fiercely dedicated to her family and her patients, who even had a nickname for her: The Breathing Lady.

That is what homeless patients called Muhammad-Brinkley when they’d see her at the coffee shop across from the hospital.

“That’s my friend. That’s the breathing lady,” her husband Reginald Brinkley remembered.

It has been a little over 100 days since he lost his wife of 24 years. He said he misses everything about her.

“She would fall asleep at home doing the same thing, just rubbing my head,” he said. “Next thing you know, she’s snoring. I miss her snoring. I’d record her. I listen to it now.”

Muhammad-Brinkley, 43, tested positive for COVID-19 in September.

By November, the registered respiratory therapist herself was placed on a ventilator.

She lost her battle a week before Thanksgiving, unable to see her youngest daughter.

“I just feel bad that I didn’t bring her home,” Brinkley said today. “I told her that I would and she didn’t come home with me.”

As this family copes with immense grief, it asks for grace as Texas reopens and masks become optional in public.

“Be mindful of other people’s emotions,” he said. “Other people’s health, their thought process, because not everyone is going through the same thing.”

The Brinkleys have not yet considered whether they will receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

“My children don’t like going out right now, just because of their mom passing from COVID,” he said.

Their unsung hero has received several honors. Medical City dedicated a constellation in Albuquerque where she grew up and in Dallas where she left her mark.

“Remember her smile,” Brinkley said. “The Breathing Lady. She just loved to help people breathe.”

Brinkley said he would like to work on a project highlighting the sacrifice of respiratory therapists during the pandemic.

The American Association of Respiratory Care has previously said at least two dozen respiratory therapists died of COVID-19.

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