Isabelle Papadimitriou died in a Dallas, Texas, hospital on July 4. She only had 11 months with her granddaughter before COVID-19 took her life.
The number of Americans lost to COVID-19 in just six months is staggering. Get COURIER’s full coverage on crossing this threshold here.
Isabelle Papadimitriou loved her granddaughter.
In video after video, she can be seen lovingly doting on “Princess Lua.”
There’s the video where Papadimitriou holds Lua in her arms and swoops her toward the television as dancing fruit characters bounce across the screen. The infant laughs and squeals with delight. There’s another one where Papadimitriou tickles and plays Peekaboo with Lua, who gleefully bursts out into fits of giggles. And then there’s the video where Papadimitriou watches over the newborn, as she coos, stretches, and squirms in her bassinet.
“I love you,” she says to her wide-eyed granddaughter.
There were supposed to be more videos. There should have been more videos. But there won’t be.
Papadimitriou died in a Dallas, Texas, hospital on July 4, 2020. She only had 11 months with her granddaughter before COVID-19 took her life.
Everything that’s happened since has felt like a dream to Papadimitriou’s daughter, Fiana Tulip. “I’m having a hard time accepting that my mom is gone,” said Tulip, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their daughter Lua.
The loss of her mother has left an enormous hole in their lives.
“Every day was about Lua. She was going to work and showing photos of Lua; she was commenting on Instagram about Lua; she was sending gifts for Lua every day,” Tulip said. “She was a very proud grandmother. She was a very compassionate soul, a very uplifting person.”
Papadimitriou was also dedicated to her job as a respiratory therapist. She continued going into work, even after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s stay-at-home order at the end of April, allowing certain businesses and public spaces to reopen at limited capacity, against the advice of health officials. His decision to reopen the state so quickly led to a summer-long surge of COVID-19 cases.
One Saturday in late June, Papadimitriou started feeling sick. A COVID-19 test confirmed she had contracted the virus—all but certainly from one of her patients.
Papadimitriou wasn’t outwardly concerned at first, Tulip said. She had always imagined she could defeat the virus. “She always told us, ‘If I caught COVID, I’m strong like an ox and I will beat this thing.’ And we believed her because she was very strong.”
On Wednesday, July 1, Papadimitriou reassured her daughter she would be okay. “I’m fine, I’m going to fight this thing for Princess Lua, I’ll be okay,” she texted Tulip.
But she wasn’t.
Three days later, Tulip received a phone call from her brother. “He was in tears and he said, ‘Mom is on her way to the hospital’ and I crumbled. I knew. My mom is so strong, so if she’s going to the hospital, something’s wrong. And by the time she got there, I don’t think the doctors wanted to tell us that there was no hope. She had lost her pulse three times on the way to the hospital, so she had likely experienced some brain trauma. They were pretty much just holding her alive because my brother was there.”
Even in the worst-case scenario, Tulip had assumed she would get to see her mother one last time before she passed away.
“I had envisioned—I’ll fly to Texas, she’ll be on a ventilator, I can see her, I can say goodbye, I can tell her I love her, I can tell her I’m proud of her,” Tulip said. “But I didn’t get that opportunity. She was gone in an instant, it felt like.”
Not being able to comfort or be comforted by loved ones due to social distancing guidelines has deepened the pain of her family’s loss. “We have to grieve on our own,” Tulip said.
Understandably, Tulip is still grappling with the complicated emotions of losing her mother more than two months later. But her sadness has long since turned to anger. “I know that her death was preventable and I know that there was a way that she could have lived, and that’s with the right leadership,” she said, pointing to the decisions made by Gov. Abbott and President Donald Trump. “She was 64 and she didn’t have any pre-existing conditions. She was a healthy woman … She had a lot more years in her.”
Tulip invited Abbott to her mother’s funeral in Texas, so the governor could get a sense of what his policies had caused. She never heard back.
“He never once acknowledged us and still has not,” Tulip said, which has only amplified her pain. “It hurts … My mom’s life mattered.”
Isabelle Papadimitriou was 64 years old when she died on July 4, 2020, due to COVID-19, and leaves behind a loving son, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.