CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A nurse with Atrium Health Cabarrus in Concord has died of coronavirus, the hospital system confirmed late Friday. Rose Liberto is the first known healthcare worker to die of COVID-19 in the Charlotte area.
"She died a hero," Rose's daughter Jennifer Liberto said.
Rose was a 20 year survivor of cancer. Chemotherapy treatments had left a lasting effect on her body.
"When this pandemic started in March, we had a lot of difficult conversations with her. We knew she had some risk factors," Jennifer recalled. "The effect chemotherapy can have on your body left her lungs a mess."
Her children suggested to Rose she retire - or to not work - because Rose was determined.
"She didn't want to leave her teammates," Katy Janssen also recalled about their mother. "She wanted to make sure she was there to support them."
In mid-April, Rose developed symptoms of coronavirus. She soon found herself a patient at her own hospital.
"Those first few days when she was still in there - when she still had her breath - we tried to keep her on the phone as much as possible," Jennifer said. "To have serious conversations, to tell her that we loved her, and try to understand if this went poorly, what she would have wanted."
The fighter in Rose wasn't ready to give up.
In one of their last conversations before Rose was placed on a ventilator, she told her family she hoped to get back to work.
"We thought if she got out of this she would retire," Jennifer said. "She said, 'If I make it through this, I've got to come work in this COVID ICU unit. I've got to take care of COVID patients as sick as I am. Only I understand what they're going through. This is really difficult.'"
In her final days, only Katy was allowed at their mother's bedside because of coronavirus restrictions at the hospital.
"It was beautiful at the end," Katy remembered. "On my way into the ICU, the hallways were aligned with her coworkers. People that knew her at the hospital. Just silently supporting us."
The rest of Rose's family would join Katy remotely.
"And when I was in there with her, we had everyone else there virtually. I'm very thankful I got to see everyone there."
Rose was 64 when she died Thursday. Coronavirus has claimed nearly 275,000 people worldwide, according to John Hopkins University, and 527 people in North Carolina, according to state officials. Each of them with their own story.
Rose Liberto was a mother and a grandmother. She was a cancer survivor. And a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, which had flooded her New Orleans home and hospital in 2005.
"She died doing what she loved," proclaimed Jennifer.
"She was a nurse whose work life was defined by the work she did with her patients - improving health, elevating hope and advancing healing – for all," Atrium Health said in a release statement. "Our teammates share in their grief for a co-worker they deeply cared about, who was a part of their daily lives and will be missed."
In her memory, Rose's family asks those with available personal protective equipment to donate it to GetUsPPE.org. They're hopeful coronavirus survivors will donate plasma to organizations like One Blood or the American Red Cross.