Elaine McRae worked as a nurse for 20 years and had volunteered to be moved into the COVID-19 unit before getting the virus.

By Georgia Slater
November 18, 2020
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A longtime Mississippi nurse died of the novel coronavirus this month in the same hospital where she had volunteered to treat patients with the virus since the onset of the pandemic.

Elaine McRae, 63, a cardiac observation nurse at Gulfport Memorial Hospital, died on Nov. 5 from complications related to COVID-19 after spending 72 days in her colleagues' care, according to the Biloxi Sun Herald.

The mom of four, who had no underlying conditions except high blood pressure controlled with medication, first came home feeling sick one day in August.

She noticed a loss of appetite and came down with a fever and warned her daughter Monica Erwin to stay out of her room.

A week later McRae was having trouble breathing and her oxygen levels dropped to 63 percent, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported.

She was taken to Gulfport Memorial Hospital and was moved into the COVID-19 intensive care unit where she was put on a ventilator. When she eventually tested negative for the virus, she was moved back to the regular ICU where she awaited a lung transplant as the virus had destroyed her lungs.

Her children were able to visit after their mother was no longer positive for COVID-19.

"We thought she was going to make it," Erwin told the newspaper. "And then she didn’t."

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McRae inspired Erwin to become a registered nurse and she passed her board exam shortly before her mother's death. She was able to show her mother her nursing license while she was still alive.

According to the outlet, McRae had always been very cautious about getting sick and would wear surgical gloves to pump gas for at least 10 years. She wouldn't let her kids share drinks and she kept hand sanitizer throughout her home.

"It’s not a hoax," McRae's son Brandon Mizell told the Biloxi Sun Herald of COVID-19. "It’s very real."

Added McRae's eldest daughter Allyson Nulta of her mother's death, "It still doesn't feel real."

Nulta told local news outlet WLOX, "She really thought she could do some good, and she did. She helped a lot of people. We, of course, were proud of her. She’s an amazing woman and she has so many gifts to share. And this is something she felt strongly about."

A graveside service for McRae was held on Nov. 13.

"She was an honest-to-God Hero, and fiercely loved her family," her obituary read.  "To say she will be missed is a great understatement. We pray our hearts will mend from this tragic, inconceivable loss."

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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This story originally appeared on people.com