APPLE VALLEY (CBSLA) — A Southern California nurse who was on the frontline helping coronavirus patients ended up suffering serious COVID-19 complications that led up to her death on Monday.
51-year-old Sally Fontanilla dedicated 20 years of her life to caring for others, and just two weeks shy of her 52nd birthday, she passed away.
Her husband Ben, who also works at St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, said they were concerned about her safety during the pandemic because of the risk factors she had, including asthma, diabetes, bronchitis and carrying excess weight.
She ended up getting seriously ill from coronavirus symptoms and was sent to the intensive care unit and had been on a ventilator for two months.
Now, her surprising death has family and other loved ones shocked but comforted by the impact she left behind.
“She always had an infectious personality. Willing to help, there with a smile,” said Fontanilla’s friend Megan. “We wanted everyone to know what an amazing person she was.”
Fontanilla took a few months off work during the beginning of the pandemic to help protect herself and then returned to the hospital in the summer when she thought her risk would be lower. However, that’s when cases in San Bernardino County peaked.
She worked in the hospital’s coronavirus unit and took several precautions as required by health officials, but the risk was still there, and at some point, she was exposed.
“We take all our precautions. We wear our masks, our shields, our gowns, our gloves, but you never know,” a coworker said.
To date, 967 people with coronavirus in San Bernadino County have died and infections are on the rise.
One of Fontanilla’s former coronavirus patients set up a GoFundMe to help support the family. More than $11,600 has been raised so far.