Four Deaths From Coronavirus In Six Days
In Freehold, New Jersey – the rough and poetic town where Bruce Springsteen grew up , where factory closures make for songs, there seem to be parishes everywhere, and they serve dumplings in restaurants – lives what is probably the oldest family. hit by the pandemic across the United States.
The Fusco, an Italian-American tribe of 11 brothers and 27 grandchildren that revolved around Grace, the matriarch, were attacked by the virus a year ago and raged in a way that no one understands yet. He killed four of them in six days, kept another two on the ventilator for a month, hospitalized another and infected most.
In a country where many families see each other once or twice a year, the Fusco had dinner together twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, at their mother’s house. They were not clear who was patient zero, but on March 8 Elizabeth, the youngest of the 11 siblings, received a call that alarmed her.
The mother, Grace, asked him to prepare the sauce for the meal and that could only respond to a cause of force majeure. By then, one of the boys, Vincent, had already been admitted to the hospital for what they believed to be pneumonia. On Tuesday, the 10th, the mother was hospitalized; then to the rest. And they began to die.
Rita Fusco, 55, passed away on Friday, March 13. The mother, Grace Fusco, 73, did it on Wednesday 18, not knowing what had happened to her daughter. That same day, hours after Grace, 55-year-old Carmine went to the other world; and the next day, March 19, Vincent did.
Joe Fusco, then 49 years old, had already been sedated and would spend 30 days like this; and another of the sisters, Maria Reid, 44, spent the same 26 days. One more brother was hospitalized receiving oxygen. Weeks later, they called with the news that their aunt from Staten Island had also died.
“I didn’t have time to be scared those days, I was going crazy from room to room. Very little was known then, we were without masks, the doctors were frustrated because they lacked answers. We learned that Rita had covid after she died ”, explains Elizabeth Fusco-Bryan in her living room.
Today his home looks like a small mausoleum, with the walls crammed with family photos and messages in his memory. “Many people call them parties, but for us it was just going to Mom’s house, although there are many of us,” he explains.
Most of the great events in the life of the Fusco ended up around a large table full of people and dishes, linguine , eggplant rollatini and pizzaiola steaks that the matriarch cooked for hours. Most of them still lived in Freehold, and with the partners and nephews, it was impossible not to get at least 20 people together at the mother’s house.
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The virus was primed in the lifestyle of the Fusco, as it did in cities like New York. His most distinctive features, closeness, contact, community life, became his greatest vulnerability. And also, as in the rest of the planet, there were many numbers, but few conclusions to draw from everything that happened.
“Suddenly I had three dead brothers, another two in a coma, others hospitalized, everything had to be taken care of… I was the youngest daughter, even if she was an adult, and now I was in charge. We had a quadruple funeral on April 1, ”he recalls.
His brothers Joe and Maria were still on a respirator. They woke up very disoriented after almost a month and no one knew how to explain what had happened. When they both went into an induced coma, only Rita had died. Joe kept calling his mother’s house, because it was the only number he could remember, but of course she never answered.
They shunned his questions for days, his wife fearing a relapse. Maria, the husband and the brothers decided to tell her when she asked and it took her days to do so, as if she feared the answer. He had had strange dreams, of his dead father and his missing daughter.
Fusco strong . Fusco strong. The words are written on a stone in the colors of the Italian flag in Elizabeth’s living room. The ashes of his father and mother lie in two small suitcases in an adjoining room.
The origins of the family go back to the Brooklyn of the 50s. Vincenzo, the father, emigrated from Italy at the age of 17 and met Grace, 15. They were for each other since then until in 2017 he got cancer. led to him. They had moved to Freehold in 1975 to dedicate themselves to training racehorses, because if the city is famous for something, apart from The Boss, it is for its racetrack.
Grace died without knowing that a daughter of hers, Rita, had preceded her days ago, that Carmine would do so hours later, and Vincent the next day. Nor that his sister would take the same path weeks later, on Staten Island.
Even today no one understands very well why the pandemic attacked practically all members of the same family, but in such an unequal way, since pre-existing diseases have not given clues to justify such disparate outcomes, according to Elizabeth. Three of the four older brothers died, but from then on the logic is weak.
In the days of lead, they did a group test to 19 of them and they all tested positive except for one of the nieces, who never got infected. Today it is the only one without antibodies. Another of them, Gabby, was with her grandmother shortly before entering the hospital, she lay on her bed, kissed her, took pictures with her, hugged her.
Then she had a baby, who also didn’t have a virus And months later she was infected by being close to an infected friend.
The Johns Hopkins Institute collected DNA samples from the 11 siblings and from the mother, according to Elizabeth, to try to find some genetic data to help them understand why the virus hit this family so quickly and so excruciatingly. “The case also offered doctors a sample of people, brothers of a father and a mother, on whom covid-19 acted at the same time but in a very different way,” he explains.
She, her brother Joe, and Maria donate antibody-rich plasma every week. And they continue to meet at the mother’s house. Now Elizabeth, who runs restaurants, is the main person in charge of the Sunday sauce, although the others help out. He says his sister Bridget, who lives in Chicago, is also a good cook.
Nobody as good as the mother, yes. Elizabeth thinks that she knew the end was near. Just before sedating her, she asked them to bring her her wedding band. His last words were: “Remember to give food to the homeless and do not fight among yourselves.”