HACKENSACK, N.J. — A New Jersey mother and long-term care nurse graciously spoke with PIX11 from her hospital bed at Hackensack University Medical Center Thursday, unable to remove her oxygen mask as she battles coronavirus, which she she believes she caught from a spreader event rooted in an act of kindness.
Sofia Burke’s fight is a snapshot of COVID-19, up close and personal.
“If I take off the mask, my oxygen level drops into the 80s, even into the 70s,” she said.
Coronavirus invaded Burke’s household a couple of weeks ago, and infected every single member of her immediate family.
Her elderly mother, father, brother were infected, along with Burke’s husband, and three children — eight people in all.
It all started with a good deed: her mother’s generous offer to give one of her elderly girlfriends a short car ride home.
Both were wearing masks inside the vehicle, with the windows down for extra ventilation.
That elderly friend, who said she was suffering from just a common cold, was really unknowingly infected with coronavirus.
Even though they were wearing masks, Burke said the virus likely spread to the car’s interior surfaces.
“So when the lady left the car,” she said, “the inside of the car was contaminated.”
Burke is well versed in COVID-19 safety protocols because she’s a nurse, and works in a nursing home no less. She’s spent the pandemic caring for elderly patients infected with the virus, and then safely coming home for the last nine months.
But she said it was that seemingly innocent car ride that brought the virus into her home and tore through her family, and that does not come as a surprise to Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network.
“This case shows that it’s more important than ever to be very, very vigilant,” Parikh said. “We’re so close to a vaccine, and something tragic like this occurring after months of being very, very cautious is a terrible story, because it can happen to anybody.”
Everyone in Burke’s family experienced various symptoms.
But her 93-year old father, Otto Bowless, was put on a ventilator before his condition quickly deteriorated.
He passed away last Tuesday.
“I don’t want anyone — anyone — to ever suffer the pain, the loss, the destruction that this virus has done to us,” Burke said.
Burke manages to video chat with her husband and three children every night.
But for right now – that’s all she has, as she fights to recover.
“I don’t know when I’m going home,” she said. “I want to go home. I need my kids.”
To contribute to the GoFundMe set up to cover funeral costs for Otto Bowless, click here.