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‘The world stopped’: Young doctor’s shocking coronavirus death

Nick Whigham
·3-min read

The family of a young doctor are mourning after her fight with COVID-19 took a sudden heartbreaking turn and her brain shut down.

Dr Adeline Fagan worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist, or OB-GYN, in the US state of Texas. At just 28, she was undertaking the second year of a residency in the dream job where she would routinely deliver babies.

During the pandemic while on rotation in the emergency room she found herself working 12-hour shifts looking after coronavirus patients, according to her family who set-up a GoFundMe page during her two-month battle with COVID-19.

“What started as intense flu-like symptoms escalated within the week to a hospital stay. Adeline spent the next few weeks battling COVID and was treated with several different respiratory therapies and put on dozens of drugs,” her sister, Maureen, wrote.

Adeline Fagan seen holding a baby (left) and graduating (right) before she worked treating coronavirus patients.
Adeline Fagan was working in the ER looking after coronavirus patients when she became sick. Source: GoFundMe/Twitter

“When there was no positive response to these methods of treatment Adeline decided to begin an experimental drug trial. However, before we could see if this new drug was effective, her lungs could no longer support her.”

On August 3 she was intubated and placed on a ventilator. The following day she was also placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine to help pump and oxygenate her blood.

It was expected she would remain on the ventilator and ECMO for six to eight weeks as her lungs healed themselves and her body tried to fight off the virus.

But on Sunday (local time), “the world stopped for a moment and will never be the same”, Ms Fagan’s father, Brant, wrote in an update to the GoFundMe page.

The death came as a heartbreaking surprise as Ms Fagan “was doing wonderfully for the last few days,” her family said.

However on the weekend, they received a worried call from doctors asking for consent to do an emergency procedure to relieve the pressure of a massive brain bleed after a nurse found Ms Fagan unresponsive.

“The neurosurgeon said it was a ‘1 in a million’ chance she would even survive the procedure, but that Adeline would have several severe cognitive and sensory limitations if she did survive,” her father wrote.

“The doctor said they have seen this type of event in COVID patients that spend time on ECMO. The vascular system is also compromised by the virus, resulting in bleeds. We spent the remaining minutes hugging, comforting, and talking to Adeline. And then the world stopped....”

Doctor Adeline Fagan pictured with a dog before she died from COVID-19.
The family penned the heartbreaking update on Sunday (local time). Source: GoFundMe

The page has been shared widely and at the time of writing had raised more than $US147,000 of the $US150,000 target to help her family pay medical and funeral costs.

Meanwhile her friends and colleagues posted heartfelt tributes to the young doctor on social media as the Texas healthcare system continues to contend with thousands of new coronavirus cases a day.

According to official state data, Texas currently has an estimated 64,431 active coronavirus cases while it has recorded 14,893 COVID-19 deaths so far.

Dr Jesse O'Shea, an infectious disease specialist in Atlanta, was among those to publicly mourn the young woman’s death.

“Another bright light gone too soon. At 28, her fellow obgyn residents knew her as radiating kindness. To her sisters and family, I grieve with you,” he wrote on Twitter.

“To my fellow healthcare workers, please continue to be careful. She is us.”

The young woman’s death comes as the US surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths with recent modelling suggesting that number could double by the end of the year.

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