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July 10, 2020

This nurse filmed her last days to show how the 'deathly' coronavirus can progress

Daily Briefing

    When ED nurse Pamela Orlando fell ill with Covid-19, she spent the last few weeks before her death videotaping her experience to show the world how the "deathly [coronavirus] could progress," according to her son.

    Lessons learned from adverse outcomes on clinician resilience

    Orlando was dedicated to 'saving lives'

    Orlando was 56 years old and had worked as a nurse for 30 years. When the new coronavirus began spreading throughout the United States, Orlando was working as an ED nurse at The Valley Hospital in New Jersey. At that point, Orlando had worked at The Valley for about 12 years and had even won the DAISY Award, an international award that honors extraordinary nurses.

    Outside of the hospital, Orlando was regarded as her social circle's medical expert. Her friends and family called her "Dr. Orlando," because they always went to her for medical advice—and she was always there to take care of those in need. According to some people's accounts, Orlando visited a friend's house almost every day for a month to assist them when they had Lyme disease. Others said Orlando drove one hour to NYU Medical Center on 12 different occasions to accompany her niece to surgery.

    "She was always saving somebody's life," her mother, Ann Orlando, said. "She saved my life quite a few times."

    Orlando also was a single mother of two sons, Ryan, 16, and Reid, 23. Orlando worked at least 60 hours a week and often held three jobs to support her family—yet her sons said Orlando never complained about the long hours.

    And when Orlando went through chemotherapy for breast cancer, she still attended all of her sons' sporting events and returned to work shortly after completing treatment.

    "I have never seen her cry once in my life," Ryan said. "She was composed. She really knew how to take care of me and my brother."

    Reid said he begged his mother not to work during the coronavirus epidemic. But, "[t]hat was my mother's life, was saving lives," Reid said. "She was very humble. She didn’t want any attention. She just did all the right things."

    Orlando's battle with Covid-19

    At the end of March, Orlando fell ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and she decided to videotape her experience with the disease.

    In her first video, Orlando said she had "a fever that [she couldn't] get rid of," but said she planned to stay at home in bed. "I'm not going to the [ED], I'm going to manage my symptoms at home." On her second day of filming, she said she had back pain and a fever, but she was still at home.

    However, by Orlando's third day of filming, she was in a bed at The Valley Hospital. In the video, she was breathing with assistance from supplemental oxygen delivered via a nasal cannula. Orlando said she was "happy to be okay for now," knowing that the coming days would likely be "worse."

    Orlando filmed herself from her hospital bed again on day four, for the first time at 3:30 a.m. "I am so uncomfortable," she said.

    And in Orlando's next clip, it can be clearly seen that her condition was worsening, the New York Post reports. "I don't even know what day this is but I feel horrible. Like so bad like almost like I'm not going to make it," she said between coughs. "Please God, help me."

    On Saturday, Orlando was struggling to breathe and to keep track of time. "I think it's Saturday, yes it's Saturday at 9:15 at night. Today is not a good day," she said. "I can't even move without being short of breath. Just pray that I'm ok."

    In her last two clips, Orlando was wearing an oxygen mask and having a hard time speaking between coughs. "I'm not getting better yet," she said.

    Orlando died at the hospital on April 16, 24 days after she first developed symptoms of Covid-19, CBS News reports. Orlando's mother and her two sons were able to visit her on the day she died.

    Reid said Orlando videotaped her experience to show the world the truth about the novel coronavirus and Covid-19.

    "She was trying to show the masses or whoever would watch it how this deathly virus could progress," Reid said. "My mother went out as a hero" (Shanes,, 4/23; Fonrouge, New York Post, 7/7; Reakes, Mount Pleasant Daily Voice, 5/1; CBS News, 4/30).

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