'She loved her job’: Loved ones mourn Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center employee who died from COVID-19 complications

‘She loved helping people, and she sacrificed a lot,’ Dorothy Pearl Davis’ sister says

Staff member at Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center dies from COVID-19
Staff member at Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center dies from COVID-19

SAN ANTONIO – The family of a Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center employee who died from COVID-19 complications remembers their loved one as a hardworking and loving woman.

That employee, Dorothy Pearl Davis, 60, was a certified nursing assistant with the facility and had only been working there full-time for three months.

“She was a giant. Everything she did, she did big. She loved hard. The work she did, she loved it so much. She was a very caring person, my goodness," said Dr. Tammy Steen, Davis' sister. "She was a hands-on kind of person. She loved her job. She loved helping people, and she sacrificed a lot.”

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Dorothy Pearl Davis

Steen said Davis also loved bringing the family together and cooking for everyone. Sadly, before she got sick in early March, Davis voiced her concerns about the outbreak taking place at the nursing home.

“Not only did she voice her concern, but I asked her, ‘Are they giving you gloves and protective equipment?’" Steen said. "She said, 'Girl, I got to put my hands in my pocket if I want to keep my hands clean, and I wash my hands a whole lot.’ But she said, ‘Tammy, I have to go to work. I have to go to work because I have bills to pay.”

Alarmingly, Steen said her sister told her one of her co-workers sneezed on her.

“She told me, ‘Tammy, I told that woman to cover your mouth or sneeze in your elbow! She told me I needed to go home. I said I can’t go home because I can’t afford to take off. She told me not to worry about it because it was just her allergies.’”

Steen said about four days later, she got another call from Davis.

“She called me and said, ‘I’m just not feeling good.’ I asked what was wrong, and she told me that she thought it was her allergies. She sounded very nasally, and I told her to go to the doctor, but she said she couldn’t because her insurance didn’t kick in until April.”

Steen said she told her sister to go to the emergency room.

“She told me she did, but they told her it was allergies and that to see her doctor or self-quarantine,” Steen said. “She went home and drank a lot of fluids and said she couldn’t keep her fever down, and I remember she had the fan blowing on her.”

Steen said that is when a friend helped her out with seeing a doctor, even though she didn’t have insurance.

“She told me the doctor just opened her mouth and saw that her throat was red and said it was strep throat,” Steen said.

“They gave an injection and some antibiotics, but while she was on her way home, she had a picture of a strawberry shake, and she said, ‘I drank the shake, but I couldn’t taste it,’ and I knew right then what was going on,” Steen said through tears.

Steen said that's when Davis went home to sleep off the injection, and after their younger sister paid her visit, they knew she needed hospital care immediately.

“My younger sister told me that she couldn’t get her up. I told (Dorothy) to go to the hospital, and she told me, ‘I can’t because my insurance doesn’t come in until April,'" Steen said. "I told her to go anyway, and she told me, ‘Tammy, I am too weak. I can’t go. I am too weak.’ I called first responders, and they went over and took her immediately.”

The first couple of days, Steen said they were able to FaceTime and talk with Davis on the phone. She said they prayed once in the morning and again at night, but when one of their sisters went to drop off her favorite Chick-Fil-A meal, they didn’t get a response.

“I got a call hours later from a nurse saying they had to transfer her to give her oxygen. She was placed on a ventilator, and since then, we lost all communication.”

Steen said what was even more depressing is the fact that her sister did not have any underlying health issues. She said she called doctors and nurses every day to see how her sister was doing. Sadly, she said she organized a family video call on Thursday to speak with Davis one last time on Friday.

“They were moving her over to hospice care,” Steen said. “I asked the nurse if she could ask the chaplain to get her on FaceTime. She set up the Zoom call, and everyone was on the phone. The nurse put a walkie talkie and a phone in a bag and gave it to the chaplain, and he came in there, and we were able to see our sister for the last time."

"She actually looked at the phone and gave us a smile. And everyone started crying and screaming because prior to that, they said she hadn’t been doing that. She knew we were there, and she heard our voices and gave us a smile," Steen said.

Steen said everyone prayed before hanging up, and they made arrangements for Davis to be moved to hospice. Unfortunately, Steen said communication with the nursing home she worked at was hard as they were trying to see if her insurance was in and could possibly cover the cost of getting her the best care needed.

“They would not give me any information,” Steen said through tears. “I would ask, ‘Could you all please just say yes or no because we were just trying to get her the best care. They were so rude and left me on hold and came back and said they would call their HR and get back with me. That has been well over two weeks ago, and I have yet to get a call.”

At this time, Steen said her family is doing as much as it can to raise money to lay her sister to rest. She said, moving forward, she hopes the nursing home better takes care of both its residents and employees, providing them with everything need to stay safe.

She also had these words of encouragement to others.

“Take advantage of this alone time to learn how you are as a person,” Steen said. “We can’t get past this thing if we don’t do our part. This thing is serious. We have to come up with a great plan to come together and beat this, and we will beat it.”

For more COVID-19 coverage from KSAT, click here.

About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray is a reporter with KSAT12 News.