Texas doctor, 28, dies of Covid: ‘She wore the same mask for weeks, if not months’


Texas doctor, 28, dies of Covid: ‘She wore the same mask for weeks, if not months’

Adeline Fagan, a 28-year-old resident OB-GYN, had developed a debilitating case of Covid-19 and was on a ventilator in Houston.

Fagan’s funeral took place on Saturday.

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Texas doctor, 28, dies of Covid

Texas doctor, 28, dies of Covid: 'She wore the same mask for weeks, if not months'
Texas doctor Adeline Fagan

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.

Texas doctor, 28, dies of Covid

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.

She was the second of four sisters, all pursuing or considering careers in the medical field. Her younger sibling, Maureen, 23, said she dealt with patients in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations with “grace”, as she had observed when she accompanied her on two medical mission trips to Haiti. “Addie was very much, ‘Do you understand? Do you have other questions? I will go over this with you a million times if need be.’”

Maureen also mentioned Fagan’s comic side – she was voted by her colleagues ‘most likely to be found skipping and singing down the hall to a delivery’ and prone to rolling out hammy Scottish and English accents.

Fagan “loved delivering babies, loved being part of the happy moment when a baby comes into the world, loved working with mothers,” said Dori Marshall, associate dean at the University at Buffalo medical school. But she found living by herself in Houston lonely, and in February Maureen moved down to keep her company; she could just as easily prepare for her own medical school entrance exam in Texas.

It is unclear how Fagan contracted coronavirus, but to Maureen it seemed linked to her July rotation in the ER. HCA West is part of HCA Healthcare – the country’s largest hospital chain – and in recent months a national nurses union has complained of its “willful violation” of workplace safety protocols, including pushing infected staff to continue clocking in.

Amid national shortages, Maureen said her sister faced a particular challenge with PPE. “Adeline had an N95 mask and had her name written on it,” she said. “Adeline wore the same N95 for weeks and weeks, if not months and months.”

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