A few days after Thanksgiving, Syvie Robertson’s son, the youngest of her three children, dressed her and carried her to the hospital, where she died from COVID-19 on New Year’s Day.
She was too weak to dress or walk herself, Robertson’s mother, Mona Terry, told reporters Wednesday during a news conference held over Zoom.
“This COVID ravaged her body,” Terry, of Kentucky, said. “Every system in her body was devastated by COVID-19. It started with her kidneys. And on Jan. 1, 2021, it stopped her heart.”
Robertson, of Petersburg, was 51 and worked as a nurse at a long-term care facility in Hopewell. It’s unknown if she contracted the virus at work.
Terry, a retired nurse, told her daughter to quit her job when she was assigned to the COVID-19 ward this summer, wanting her to wait until a vaccine was available before working again.
“She was frightened of COVID,” Terry said. “The day they assigned her [to the COVID unit], she called me. She was crying. She said ‘Mom, I’m so scared.’”
“Terrified,” Terry later corrected. “Scared didn’t quite cover how she felt.”
But Robertson kept working, Terry said.
“She sacrificed herself taking care of people,” Terry said, adding that she wanted to encourage people to take the deadly virus more seriously.
“This is about Syvie, but it’s about the people who are not paying attention to the severity of this virus,” Terry said. “I want Syvie to be remembered as a hard-working nurse, but I also want her to be remembered as someone who followed the science. Syvie knew this virus was devastatingly scary. She tried everything she knew how to stay safe.”
The two women were close and spoke for 30 minutes daily on Robertson’s way to and from work. Terry said her daughter stayed home, when not working. If she did venture out, she wore a mask; at work, she donned more personal protective equipment, Terry said.
She encouraged others to do the same: “Mask up. Listen to the CDC. Take every word they say to heart.”
“If we don’t listen, there will be a lot more people grieving the loss of their loved ones,” Terry continued.
“I didn’t think my daughter would die of COVID. We never thought of that. We thought her mask and PPE would protect her,” Terry said.
Robertson tested positive for COVID-19 in November. Two days after hospitalization, Robertson entered the ICU; two more days later, she was on a ventilator, Terry said. She spent the holiday season alone and unconscious as her body slowly broke down, Terry said.
“That’s one of the most tragic things about COVID-19,” Terry said, “They die alone and scared.”
Despite their heartache, Robertson’s children, and the whole family, are proud of her, Terry said.
Robertson was a licensed practical nurse at Wonder City Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Hopewell. She was studying to become a registered nurse, like her mother.
“She was a caring person,” Terry said “She was just a natural caretaker.”
The facility’s administrator didn’t respond to requests for information Wednesday.
There have been at least 18,685 COVID-19 cases among health care workers in Virginia, according to data available from the Virginia Department of Health. It doesn’t track deaths among health care workers, but currently the VDH reports 38 deaths associated with outbreaks in health care facilities.