It took Carrie Wanamaker several days to connect the face she saw on GoFundMe with the young woman she had met a few years before.
According to the fundraising site, Adeline Fagan, a 28-year-old resident OB-GYN, had developed a debilitating case of Covid-19 and was on a ventilator in Houston.
Scrolling through her phone, Wanamaker found the picture she took of Fagan in 2018, showing the fourth-year medical student at her side in the delivery room, beaming at Wanamaker’s pink, crying, minutes-old daughter. Fagan supported Wanamaker’s leg through the birth because the epidural paralyzed her below the waist, and they joked and laughed since Wanamaker felt loopy from the anesthesia.
“I didn’t expect my delivery to go that way,” Wanamaker, a pediatric dentist in upstate New York, said. “You always hear about it being the woman screaming and cursing at her husband, but it wasn’t like that at all. We just had a really great time. She made it a really special experience for me.”
Fagan’s funeral took place on Saturday.
The physician tested positive for the virus in early July and died on 19 September after spending over two months in hospital. She had worked in a Houston emergency department, and a family member says she reused personal protective equipment (PPE) day after day due to shortages.
Fagan is one of over 250 medical staff who died in southern and western hotspot states as the virus surged there over the summer, according to reporting by the Guardian and Kaiser Health News as part of Lost on the Frontline, a project to track every US healthcare worker death. In Texas, nine medical deaths in April soared to 33 in July, after Governor Greg Abbott hastily pushed to reopen the state for business and then reversed course.
Among the deceased healthcare workers who have so far been profiled in depth by the Lost on the Frontline team, about a dozen nationwide, including Fagan, were under the age of 30. The median age of death from Covid for medical staff is 57, compared to 78 in the general population. Around one-third of the deaths involved concerns over inadequate PPE. Protective equipment shortages are devastating for healthcare workers because they are at least three times more likely to become infected than the general population.
“It kicked me in the gut,” said Wanamaker. “This is not what was supposed to happen. She was supposed to go out there and live her dreams and finally be able to enjoy her life after all these years of studying.”
Fagan worked at a hospital called HCA Houston Healthcare West, and had moved to Texas in 2019 after completing medical school in Buffalo, New York, a few hours from her hometown of LaFayette.