The sister of a New York City nurse who died this week after contracting the coronavirus is sharing her brother's heartbreaking final text messages — and a warning regarding the safety of all health care workers.
Kious Jordan Kelly worked as an assistant nursing manager at Mount Sinai West treating patients stricken with the novel coronavirus. Kelly, a native of Lansing, Michigan, was hospitalized on March 17 after contracting the virus and died on Tuesday at age 48. He suffered from severe asthma and his sister, Marya Sherron, spoke to NBC News about her brother.
“He just had this infectious energy," Sherron told NBC News producer Jay Blackman. "You felt good when he was around and you noticed when he left."
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On March 18, Sherron received what would be Kelly's final text messages to her from the intensive care unit at Mount Sinai where he was on a ventilator.
“Can’t talk because I choke and can’t breathe," he wrote. "I love you. Going back to sleep.”
Sherron responded to her brother with words of encouragement.
"You've pulled through so much. Love you and we are praying," she wrote.
Hospitals in New York, currently the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., have been experiencing a dire shortage of supplies and protective gear. Sherron told NBC News that she believes her brother's death could have been prevented, and that she hopes changes will be made going forward to prevent other health care workers from suffering the same fate.
"I absolutely believe that he contracted this because of the lack of PPE in his unit and at his hospital — but that's across our nation," Sherron told Blackman, referring to personal protective equipment, which can include masks, gowns and gloves.
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After photos emerged showing hospital workers at Mount Sinai posing for photos on social media wearing garbage bags, the hospital noted that the nurses pictured were wearing proper PPE under the garbage bags and provided a statement to TODAY.
"When it comes to staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), the facts are very clear: We always provide all our staff with the critically important PPE they need to safely do their job," said Lucia Lee, the senior director of media for the Mount Sinai Health System.
"If an individual does not have their proper PPE, they do not go on the floor, period. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not accurate."
Mount Sinai also addressed Kelly's untimely death earlier this week.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved member of our nursing staff," the hospital said in a statement. "The safety of our staff and patients has never been of greater importance and we are taking every precaution possible to protect everyone. But this growing crisis is not abating and has already devastated hundreds of families in New York and turned our frontline professionals into true American heroes. Today, we lost another hero — a compassionate colleague, friend and selfless caregiver."
Sherron hopes that her younger brother's death will serve as a warning of what's to come if action is not taken.
"There's only going to be more," Sherron told NBC News. "He's not the only one with asthma. He's not the only one with conditions who is going to work every day helping and fighting for people."