They did it all together, to the end: a battle against a mother and daughter’s coronavirus


Glenda Johnson sat on her mother’s hospital bed, took her hand and told her that everything was fine.

But Linda Hopkins, her face stretched against the suffocating pain of coronavirus pneumonia, was not ready.

“I don’t want to die,” said Linda, 83, injecting oxygen into her nostrils, her daughter later recalled. “It hurts so much. “

The two had a wonderful life in Detroit, about as close as a mother and daughter could be. They lived together, traveled together, went shopping together, worshiped together, partied together. When the two of them fell ill in late March, they went together to nearby Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, where they tested positive for COVID-19. They ended up in the same room, where they fought the disease together. Glenda, Linda’s only child, watched over her mother’s last moments.

“I have no husband, no children, no brother or sister. My mom was everything I had in the world, “said Glenda in a recent interview. “Now my heart is broken. “

Glenda, 58, a retired social worker, had been Linda’s caregiver since 2014. In that year, Glenda’s father, Clyde, died; his parents had been married for 57 years. Glenda quit her job, left her suburban apartment, and returned to the four-bedroom house in the Bagley neighborhood of Detroit where she was raised.

Linda, who had been head of acquisitions and reception at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Clyde, a former engineering director for the city of Detroit, had traveled the world together. Upon her death, Glenda took her place on trips to Hawaii, Hilton Head, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., Chicago. In late February, when the coronavirus was just starting to spread to the United States, they canceled a visit to Las Vegas and instead spent the night at the Detroit MotorCity Casino, where they played and ordered room service.

The two had worlds occupied beyond their singular relationship; Linda belonged to the Red Hat Society and several card game groups and was active in her church and local library, and Glenda worked as an event planner. They cut back on social activity in early March, but Glenda fell ill later this month, and Linda followed about a week later, said Glenda. At first they thought they had the flu, but they worried about the worsening of their symptoms. After Linda’s fever soared on March 28, they decided to go to the hospital.

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Getting out of the house was an ordeal, with the two women stopping to catch their breath every few minutes as they dressed and packed up, Glenda recalls. They drove slowly, in a caravan that included a cousin and a neighbor, to Beaumont, where, after waiting a few hours in the emergency room, they tested positive for coronavirus.

Glenda asked a doctor if her mother was going to die. “And of course, they didn’t know it, because they didn’t know anything about the virus,” she recalls.

Diagnosed with pneumonia, they were placed in rooms on different floors of Beaumont and spoke several times a day by phone. Glenda pressed her mother’s doctors and nurses for updates on her condition and to make sure she received enough attention. On their fifth day in Beaumont, without asking them, Glenda and Linda were transferred to the same room, a decision which, according to Glenda, made her grateful to the hospital. They talked, watched movies together, and called friends.

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Glenda slowly improved, but Linda, who suffered from diabetes, kidney disease and arthritis, got worse. She was put on dialysis. His breathing became more labored. Glenda tried to make her mother comfortable, helping her to eat and adjusting her oxygen mask as he slipped out of her mouth.

At one point, the doctors told Glenda that she had progressed enough to be discharged and go home, she said. But she still felt weak and breathless. She also heard stories from families of coronavirus victims who could not see their loved ones at the hospital and had to speak to them by phone or video; many died alone.

Glenda said that she refused to leave, telling hospital staff that she felt her health was still at risk and that she feared she would never see her mother again. She said she asked if the hospital plans to put someone else in her mother’s room, and staff said no. The hospital allowed Glenda to stay and continued to treat her.

“I was wondering about the bill, but said I didn’t care,” recalls Glenda.

Beaumont hospital said it could not immediately comment on Glenda’s case, citing privacy policies.

On April 10, Linda seemed to bounce back. She ate well and called friends to tell them that she would see them soon, said Glenda. But two days later, on a Sunday afternoon, her pneumonia got worse and she couldn’t focus on anything but the pain.

Glenda held Linda’s hand and fed her ice cubes. Linda told Glenda that having her was worth as much as having four daughters. Glenda said she couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

As difficult as it may be to see her mother suffer, Glenda knew she was fortunate to stay by her side.

“It was a blessing, a bittersweet blessing, that we both got it and that we were there together, and I was able to take care of her as she was used to, even in the hospital” Glenda said later. “I have made his days as pleasant and happy as possible. She was my heart, my life. “

Glenda’s vigil continued the next day April 13. That morning, Linda’s pulse was racing. The end seemed close.

Glenda allowed her mother to die. “I told her I was fine and if she saw my father, go with him. She said she didn’t see it because she didn’t want to die. She was fighting for a living. “

Glenda asked if there was anything doctors could give her mother to relieve her pain. The medicine did not arrive on time.

Linda died while holding Glenda’s hand.

Glenda later came home alone. Her parents’ home was not maintained by the weeks of detention and the rushed departure for the hospital. But she found some comfort in being surrounded by elephant figures, which Linda collected during her travels. Linda said they were lucky. Glenda said that the elephants symbolized Linda: majestic, faithful, protective.

Glenda believed that her mother deserved a large and festive funeral that could accommodate all of her relatives and friends; 300 had attended his 80th birthday. Instead, due to social distancing rules, the service would be limited to 10 people.

“I try not to be bitter with God,” Glenda recently said from her parents’ house, where she answered calls and deliveries of food and flowers. “But she didn’t die alone. So many people die alone. “

She turned on the television, but the news of the coronavirus report upset her. More than 1,000 Detroit residents have died.

“I’m so sick with coronavirus that I don’t know what to do,” said Glenda. “It’s just too much. Whenever I see the total number of deaths, I know that my mother is in that number. “

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On April 30, Glenda and a small group of friends and relatives, as well as Linda’s pastor, all wearing face masks, attended an hour-long service at the Kemp funeral home in Southfield. Linda’s bright white coffin was surrounded by bouquets of flowers.

Glenda did not speak. But she wrote a letter to her mother, which one of the mourners read aloud.

Glenda thanked Linda for making her feel loved and beautiful and for being her biggest fan.

“From time to time, you ask me if you are a good mother,” wrote Glenda. “I would answer:” Mom, you are the master to be a good mother. “”


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