Fourth Alberta health-care worker to die of COVID-19 remembered as dedicated and selfless

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A healthcare aide described as a fighter with unyielding dedication to her patients is the fourth health-care worker in Alberta to die of COVID-19.

Rose Vandelannoite died of complications from the disease on Sunday, her union wrote in a memorial post on Twitter. She was 63.

In a statement to CBC News, Alberta Health confirmed that Vandelannoite was infected at work and is the fourth health-care worker in the province to succumb to the disease.

 She is among 1,307 Albertans who have died from COVID-19.

Vandelannoite, who worked for more than 10 years at Summerwood Village Retirement Home in Sherwood Park, outside Edmonton, was described as a dogged advocate for her colleagues and the people she served.

“Never too shy to stand up and speak her mind, she was a fighter and made sure that every worker and resident was treated compassionately, fairly and with respect,” her union, LiUNA Local 3000, wrote on Twitter. 

“Our deepest condolences to Rose’s family and friends, to all our members in our facilities in Alberta who came to know her well, to her co-workers, and to the many residents she loved and cared for at Summerwood Village.” 

A COVID-19 outbreak was temporarily declared at the retirement residence in mid November after two cases were confirmed.

Union officials said Vandelannoite contracted COVID-19 the following month.

For five weeks, she “fought valiantly” to survive before succumbing to the disease at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton on Jan. 10, the union said.  Summerwood is no longer on outbreak status. 

Vandelannoite had been an active member of the union local since January 2009. She served as the chief steward at Summerwood Village for more than a decade, LiUNA Local 3000 wrote on Twitter. 

“Rose was a very proud mother who leaves behind two adult children, a loving extended family and many, many friends and co-workers who will miss her sorely. 

“Rose may be gone but her memory will always be a treasure and inspiration.” 

The union has also begun a fundraising campaign to help Vandelannoite’s family with funeral expenses. As of Tuesday morning, the campaign had raised more than $6,000. 

She lost her life caring for others, always putting others before herself.-Kelsey Torkelson

Vandelannoite’s daughter, Kelsey Torkelson, said the pain of losing her mother, three years after the death of her father from cancer, has felt like a nightmare.

In a post to Facebook, Torkelson said her mother was her rock, her most trusted confidante. 

“This virus does not discriminate,” Torkelson wrote. “It takes from families. It cuts life short. It will leave me with a hole in my heart the rest of my life.”

Torkelson described her mother as an amazing woman with a beaming smile, a loud contagious laugh and an unmatched dedication to her family, friends and patients. 

‘A health-care hero’ 

Torkelson said her mother was selfless in her work and she paid with her life.  

“My mom was an amazing woman and mother. She had a humour like no other. She was beyond caring, she was the most selfless person. So selfless she continued to work through this pandemic even though she was compromised herself. 

“She lost her life caring for others, always putting others before herself. For over 45 years she has cared for many people and ended up losing her life for only wanting to help.

“My mom is a health-care hero and she will never be forgotten. I will make sure of that.” 

During a news conference held by union officials Tuesday, Ann Waller, president of LIUNA Local 3000, became emotional as she remembered getting the call that Vandelannoite had died.

“Rose was not a number, she was my friend,” Waller said.

Nanou Suamy, who worked alongside Vandelannoite for more than a decade, said her friend was a firecracker, a strong person with a sarcastic but “sweet-as-pie” personality.

“She was a kind person, a caring person, always there for everyone, especially the residents who were under her care,” Suamy said. “She never put herself first.

“She was a special person and she impacted a lot of lives at Summerwood, not just me but all of us.”

 Suamy said Vandelannoite was diligent about following health protocols and always urged her colleagues to exercise the utmost caution.

“She always advised everyone, ‘This COVID pandemic is real and we need to protect ourselves … Even if you don’t care about yourself, care about others. Protect yourself.'”

Suamy said Vandelannoite called her when she first fell ill to let her know she would be off work for a few weeks. She never returned to her job.

Instead she was admitted to hospital and eventually intensive care. In the end, Suamy was there as her friend took her dying breath so she wouldn’t be alone.

“I feel blessed because I was with her until the last minute,” Suamy said.

“I knew that she would have done that for me … She was a very caring person.” 

Vandelannoite is the fourth health-care worker to die from COVID-19. The death of a Calgary-area doctor, a man in his 70s, was reported last week. Alberta health officials said the physician was not infected in the workplace. 

Joe Marie (Jing) Corral of Calgary was a healthcare aide at the Bethany Riverview continuing care facility in Calgary.  A fellow health worker, a woman in her 50s in the Edmonton region, succumbed to the disease late last year. Her name has not been released.

Alberta reported 639 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 23 more deaths. Across the province there were 13,917 active cases, with 811 people are being treated in hospitals for the illness, including 130 in ICU beds.



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