Coronavirus Deaths: Nursing home worker, UIC nurse die of COVID-19 while serving on front lines

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Frontline healthcare workers continue to be among the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a mother of three who worked in a suburban nursing home and a UIC nurse who was just about to retire.

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Fresh off maternity leave with her third child, Krist Angielen Guzman insisted on returning to her job at Meadowbrook Manor.

"She seemed to like really treasure her time with her patients," said Jeschelyn Pilar, her cousin.

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Days into the worst of the pandemic, her family said Guzman started feeling ill and self-quarantined for two weeks. That's when they say the Bolingbrook facility, where her husband also worked, started accepting COVID patients.

"He kept telling her how crazy it was in there how, how, just chaotic it was working with these patients and how scary it was," Pilar said.

Guzman's family said during her first days back on the job she had to buy her own face shield and goggles and make her own protective masks to make do.

The nursing home contends their top priority remains to protecting the health, well-being, and privacy of residents and staff.

Within days, the 35-year-old mother came down with COVID-19, and again sealed herself off from her three young children. Struggling to breathe, Guzman took herself to the hospital. She only lived another 24 hours.

"To add another level to this tragedy, her husband just tested positive," Pilar said through tears. "So we're over here planning a funeral, and they can't even come and say goodbye to them."

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Maria Lopez's family is struggling with that same reality.

"I was begging her not to go to work," said Carina Rodriguez, her daughter. "I literally would tell her 'Mom please don't go. I don't want you to go,' but she was like, 'I'm not going to let this fear stop me. I need to help.'"

A nurse at UIC for 20 years, Lopez need to help became her final sacrifice. April 30 was going to be her last day before retirement.

Instead, she spent the final days of her career laying in the hospital beds she'd long attended and died there on May 4.

Full statement from Meadowbrook Manor:
We are deeply saddened to confirm that Meadowbrook Bolingbrook is mourning the loss of a beloved team member because of complications due to COVID-19. Our team members are the heart and soul of our facilities. Every member of our team is a member of the Meadowbrook Health Care family and this loss is profoundly felt by all of us, especially those at Meadowbrook Bolingbrook. We extend our sincere condolences to the team member's family and friends as they process this loss during these extraordinarily difficult times. We are offering counseling support to our staff as together we grieve our friend and colleague.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact every community, hospital, and nursing home across the nation, at Meadowbrook Bolingbrook, our top priority remains to protect the health, well-being, and privacy of our residents and staff. Meadowbrook Bolingbrook is grateful for the community's support and trust during this difficult time. We ask for continued prayers for the health and safety of every resident and all health care professionals as they work on the frontlines to combat this global health crisis. A Go Fund Me fund has been established in honor of Krist Angielen Castro Guzman to assist her family in this time of great need.


Full statement from Michael B. Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics:
Let me start by again expressing my appreciation for all you do to care for our patients and one another during this difficult time. Today, we mourn the death of another valued member of our UI Health family, Maria Lopez, RN, who passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Ms. Lopez began working at UI Health in 2001, and she most recently served our patients as a staff nurse in the operating room. It is with the utmost respect for her service and a deep sense of sadness that I ask everyone to join me in keeping Maria's family and friends in our thoughts. The losses we and our entire community are experiencing due to COVID-19 are heartbreaking. If you need support during this time, please remember that resources, like our COVID-19 Support Line, are available to you. Information on these resources is available on the UI Health intranet - please know that I encourage you all to take advantage of these tools, especially in the face of this type of tragic news.
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