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WBEZ: How One Chicago-Area Family Survived COVID-19

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Sandy Wilson-Muriel and her mother Gladys Wilson were the first in their family to get sick with COVID-19 in mid-March. They think it was through their weekly prayer group.

Wilson-Muriel, 53, isolated herself from her husband and children and told her mother to do the same. But her father, Cliff, refused to leave her mother alone.

“[He] said that he was always going to be with her until the end — no matter what happened to her, he was never going to move by her side,” Wilson-Muriel said.

Her parents, Gladys and Cliff Wilson of Lincolnwood, Ill., have been married for 44 years and are inseparable. They were introduced by a mutual friend after Gladys and her daughters immigrated to the United States from Colombia.

Gladys Wilson quickly got sicker and was hospitalized on March 26. Her daughter was hospitalized a day later. Then, Cliff and Gladys’ son, who lives with his parents and was taking care of them, were also hospitalized with COVID-19. Both parents were intubated and placed in comas. They both have various preexisting health conditions that made their conditions worse.

What Wilson-Muriel remembers most about that time was how much she worried about her family. She couldn’t eat or even bring herself to talk to her children and husband via video call.

“It was severe depression, severe anxiety,” she recalled. “You don’t know if you’re going to live and they’re going to live and how you’re going to take care of all this. You’re hoping you didn’t infect anyone else.”

Two weeks passed before Gladys Wilson woke up alone in a hospital room. Her family couldn’t visit her because of the pandemic. Her husband was intubated in another room, away from her.

“When I [woke] up, it was the most horrible sensation when you feel so lonely,” she recalled. “I thought my daughter betray[ed] me and my son. No one was talking to me. I didn’t know anything.”

In that time, two of her children were released from the hospital, but Wilson would remain until mid-April. Her children had to follow her progress through video calls.

Wilson was in the hospital for so long, she needed rehabilitation to regain strength in her arms and legs. She also fell in the shower at the hospital and broke her knee.

She eventually got into a rehabilitation center called the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. But her husband Cliff was still hospitalized, too weak to join her. Their children knew their parents wanted to be together.

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