Retired nurse becomes first COVID-19 fatality in Illinois

Patricia Frieson had a history of respiratory issues which included lymphedema and severe asthma. She was 61-years-old.

Patricia Frieson
Patricia Frieson (Credit Chicago Sun Times/Family)

A Black retired nurse has, unfortunately, become the first coronavirus fatality in the state of Illinois. Her family is now speaking up about the heartache they’ve experienced while this country still grapples to adequately respond to a global pandemic.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times, Patricia Frieson passed away Monday only a single day after she tested positive for COVID-19.

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The 61-year-old had a history of respiratory issues which included lymphedema and severe asthma making her amongst those most at risk to succumb to the coronavirus.

On March 12, Frieson went to urgent care at the University of Chicago Medical Center complaining that she’d had difficulty breathing for several days prior. Frieson was admitted due to her medical history and later diagnosed with pneumonia. She was also tested for COVID-19.

“All of this is overwhelming,” her brother Anthony told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. “Being the first to die of it here is just a barrier to our grieving. It could have been the 10th, doesn’t matter. The whole point is, she’s not here anymore.”

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“We weren’t allowed to come to the hospital to see Pat, which is the painful part about all this. We understand why,” he conceded, referencing six feet social distancing guidelines recommended by medical officials.

“But that’s the really difficult thing at the end — the isolation,” he noted. “You end up with the sadness of not being able to be with her when she passes, the sadness of it seeming like they are alone, when you know they are not.”

The patient’s other brother, Richard, recalled that the retired nurse was “an amazingly loving person” and “one of the sweetest people you ever want to meet.”

“She cared for everybody but herself,” he told The Chicago Tribune. “She liked taking care of people.”