Respiratory Therapist in Dallas Dies After Contracting COVID-19

Isabelle Papadimitriou is among hundreds of U.S. health care workers who've fallen on the front lines

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Nationwide, COVID-19 is killing health care workers at an alarming pace.

As of July 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 531 have died, and 99,855 have been infected, but experts said the true toll is likely much higher.

Among those who've fallen on the front lines is Isabelle Papadimitriou, a 64-year-old respiratory therapist in Dallas.

“Respiratory therapists are absolutely on the front line,” said Fiana Tulip, her daughter.

Tulip described her mom as being fun, fearless and a fighter who loved her job.

When COVID-19 cases slowed in the spring, Tulip said her mom feared she'd be furloughed.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

“She didn't get laid off and she kept on working and then the spike hit,” Tulip said.

Feeling it wasn't safe to fly, Papadimitriou canceled a trip to New York in June to see Tulip and her new granddaughter Lua.

“So she had extra time and they called her in to help because her department had to take on COVID patients,” Tulip said.

Days later, on June 27, she said her mom started to feel sick. For two days, she said Papadimitriou was unable to find a place to get tested for COVID-19. When she did, Papadimitriou found out within 30 minutes she tested positive, Tulip said.

“She knows she worked on a patient who unbeknownst to anyone had COVID,” Tulip said.

Tulip said her mom's condition fluctuated during her week-long battle, but her spirit stayed strong.

“She said, you know, she's sick and she's going to fight this thing for princess Lua,” Tulip said.

In their last conversation on July 3, her mom said she was "super weak… the cough is hurting me… I’ve been trying to get up since noon, and I fall back in bed.”

She died the next day.

“I want her here for my daughter, more than anything,” Tulip said. “The way that she loved my daughter. It was everything to me. It meant the world.”

Now, Tulip is sharing her mom's story with the world, and the ways she believes it could've ended differently.

“I don’t think my mom had to die," Tulip said. "I don’t think she deserved to die and had we been better and smarter about this and just staying inside or wore a mask if we have to go outside, then I think she'd still be alive today."

Tulip said her mother had no underlying health conditions.

Baylor, Scott and White released the following statement.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague and extend heartfelt condolences to her family, whom she spoke of often with immense pride. Isabelle’s passion and devotion for serving others, and the genuine kindness she expressed to those she encountered, will be deeply missed.

The safety of our patients and caregivers is our top priority – during this pandemic and every day. Of our patient-facing employees who had an exposure to a COVID-positive patient, fewer than 1% of those tested were found to be positive. The majority of these exposures happened in the early days of our national response to the novel virus with patients who were not presenting with the then-known symptoms of the virus. Over time, as our collective knowledge has increased, and guidance evolved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our protocols evolved as well, and these positives are much less frequent.

In accordance with CDC guidance and recommendations by our clinical experts, we have measures in place across our hospitals, surgery centers and clinics to safeguard our patients’ health and well-being—as well as that of our caregivers—from COVID-19. These measures include a no-visitor policy, enhanced cleaning, touch-free protocols and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in line with CDC-published recommendations. All staff wear masks for the duration of their shift and other PPE as appropriate.

As COVID-19 continues to shape the way we work, we have and will continue to focus on creating safe environments for all who enter our doors."

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