Nurse Sofia Burke did everything she could to protect herself and her loved ones from the spread of the coronavirus, but it still managed to infect her entire family after her mother, Dora Matias, offered to give an elderly friend a ride in their car. Burke was unaware of what her mother had done until multiple family members, all living in the same house, started coming down with flu-like symptoms.
Instead of helping patients at the nursing home where she works in New Jersey, she’s stuck at the hospital as a patient, unable to breathe on her own. Despite everything she did to protect herself, one mistake ended up costing her and her family much more than they could have ever imagined.
A Selfless Car Ride Goes Horribly Awry
As an essential worker with a house full of extended family members, Sofia Burke wasn’t taking any chances when it came to her health, but she couldn’t control everything her family did when she wasn’t around. As it turned out, her mother gave an elderly friend who had a cold at the time a ride. According to Burke, both her mother and her friend wore masks in the car. They also kept the windows down for additional ventilation.
However, the “selfless” act soon turned into a “superspreader” event, Burke told reporters from the hospital bed where she’s recuperating.
“My mother left her guard down for one moment — one moment,” Burke said after pausing to breathe. “And in that swift moment, my entire family was affected.”
A House Full of COVID
When her mom started coughing and sneezing just a few days after the car ride, Burke says she started quarantining in her room with her six-year-old son, but eventually came down with the virus as well.
While her husband Brian experienced a minor cold, the other members of their house weren’t so lucky. Burke’s 93-year-old father, Otto Bowless, died last week of COVID-19 complications.
“We tried to wear masks in the house and did everything we could to keep my father safe,” Burke told a local newspaper. But one after another, every member of their house eventually got sick.
Speaking with reporters, her husband Brian said once the virus gets into your house, there’s only so much you can do to prevent it from spreading. “This virus is so transmissible. There’s almost no way to stop from spreading it.”
Burke says she also saw symptoms in her 29-year-old brother, 20-year-old daughter and 2-year-old daughter Elena, who suffers from diabetes. She had to be taken to the emergency room due to a recurring fever. Soon thereafter, Burke was admitted to the very same hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and given a mask to increase her oxygen levels.
It will still be a few days before Burke can return to her work. Every time she takes off her breathing mask, her oxygen level dips to 70 to 80.
“Right now, I feel like everything has been swept from under my feet literally,” Burke said on Wednesday. “Something so simple as breathing has become so difficult.”
Going forward, she says everyone should err on the side of caution, instead of leaving the house unnecessarily.
“Wouldn’t you want to walk away with your family alive, healthy without nerve damage, without [them being] unable to breathe?” Burke asked. “You don’t want to spend the money you have on funerals and burying your loved ones.”
With mounting funeral and medical expenses, the family started a GoFundMe to help pay for everything. Even with insurance, the cost of treating everyone in their home has become untenable. They have already raised $24,000 of their goal of $30,000.
As Burke continues to share her story, urging other Americans to follow the latest safety requirements, she has been overwhelmed by all the love and support her family has received online. “I want to say thank you to this hospital for everything they have done for me and my family and to all the front-line people working so hard.”
Even if you are doing everything to protect yourself from the virus, the other members of your household could put you at risk. Remind everyone to stay safe this winter as we face what could be the last chapter of the coronavirus pandemic.