After losing her mother to COVID-19, St. Paul woman urges others to take virus seriously

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On Friday, Minnesota health officials announced another 28 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19. The state has now lost 371 neighbors, friends and loved ones to the virus.

Patty DeRusha was 59 years old when she died on Wednesday. A native of St. Paul, she leaves behind a daughter, grandchildren and a loving community.

“Anybody who ever met her fell in love with her immediately,” said Mary DeRusha, Patty's daughter.

“She has so many people that love her and miss her and this loss is just tragic, it doesn’t make sense,” Mary added.

Mary said her mother was always smiling and putting the needs of others before her own.

“She was always making sure others were taken care of,” Mary said.

Patty moved into an assisted living facility in January; she suffered from COPD and congestive heart failure.

The Sanctuary, in West St. Paul, stopped allowing visitors in March when COVID-19 started spreading, according to Mary. A couple of weeks later, her mother started showing symptoms of the disease.

On April 9, she was taken to United Hospital. Mary said she learned the next day that her mother tested positive for COVID-19.

"Her body just started shutting down," said Mary. "She got kidney damage, she started having to have insulin. My mother never required insulin. Her blood pressure was low, my mom never had low blood pressure."

Mary told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS her mother was on life support for 18 days. Nurses helped her speak to her mom over the phone. They also played music for her.

When Mary called on April 29, she spoke to a doctor.

“He goes ‘she’s not going to make it,’ I said 'put her on comfort care,'” said Mary. “Believe me, that’s the hardest choice you can do for a parent.”

Mary was allowed into her mother’s room, wearing full protective gear, for her final moments.

“She passed away holding my hand and I am so thankful the hospital allowed me in there,” said Mary. “There are people out there right now that have COVID that are dying without their loved ones by them.”

She doesn’t want others to have to endure the tremendous loss her family has suffered.

“It’s serious, people need to take it seriously,” Mary said. “People see numbers and they have to realize these numbers are actually human beings, these numbers are actually loved ones who are dying in a blink of an eye.”

She is urging people to stay home when they don’t feel well, maintain a safe distance from others and wash their hands.

“There are so many people out there that can’t fight this,” said Mary.

Because of the restrictions in place, she is unable to hold a proper funeral right now. Mary said she's now planning a celebration of life for when they’re able to safely gather again.

“She touched many, many people’s hearts and I just don’t feel that that’s right to not allow anybody to say goodbye to her,” she said.

A friend has started a GoFundMe page to help cover the funeral costs.

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