APPLE VALLEY, Calif. (KCAL/KCBS) – Friends, loved ones and colleagues are mourning the death of a Southern California nurse who died from COVID-19 complications this week.
Sally Fontanilla, 51, dedicated two decades of her life to caring for others. She was on the front lines battling coronavirus, but on Monday she too became a victim of the deadly disease.
She had been on a ventilator for two months, and she lost her battle with coronavirus just two weeks shy of her 52nd birthday.
“She always had an infectious personality, willing to help, there with a smile,” said Megan, one of Fontanilla’s co-workers. “We wanted everyone to know what an amazing person she was.”
Megan, whose last name wasn’t provided, said the nurses who worked with Fontanilla at St. Mary Medical Center were all praying that she would pull through.
“We were rooting for her,” she said.
Fontanilla’s husband Ben was too. He works at the same hospital, and he said his wife of 30 years was worried about contracting coronavirus because she had asthma, bronchitis, diabetes and carried excess weight.
He said she took a few months off during the beginning of the pandemic to protect herself, and she went back to work during the summer when she thought her risk would be lower.
But that’s actually when cases in San Bernardino County peaked.
Ben said Sally worked in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, and he believes that’s where she caught the virus.
“We take all of our precautions,” Megan said. “We wear our masks, our shields, our gowns, our gloves, but ... you never know.”
To date, more than 960 people in San Bernardino County with coronavirus have died, and infections there are once again slowly rising.
This is the time of year when Sally and Ben often traveled. Instead, Ben is taking time off work to grieve her death.
“You know about the dangers of COVID,” Megan said. “You see it, you hear it, but until it really affects you and someone you know...”
A former coronavirus patient treated by Fontanilla established a GoFundMe page to help her family. As of early Thursday afternoon, it had raised more than $14,000.