Woman who died of COVID-19 refused to go to hospital, worried about bills, her son says

78 year old Ofelia Rousseva tragically passed away yesterday after mistaking her COVID-19 symptoms for those of the typical flu virus. She was the second person in Allegheny County to die of the virus.

Rousseva suspectedly contracted the virus while visiting her home in Bulgaria; upon returning home, she thought she had the flu and didn’t want to seek further medical attention in a hospital. Her son recalls, “She didn’t have insurance. She thought she might not be able to pay the bills,”. These financial concerns, combined with her concerns about how she would be treated due to her status as an immigrant, prevented her from getting medical help. This undoubtedly opens up conversations surrounding how the virus has an even deeper relation to the complexities of immigration status and medical access.

Ms. Rousseva’s son had urged her to go to the hospital, but says she continually declined to do so, especially since her granddaughter, Isabella, had been sick two weeks prior and had recovered quite quickly. She considered it to be no more than just the regular flu. This is a common misconception, as young children are often asymptomatic or do not respond to the virus as severely. Ms. Rousseva’s age undoubtedly played a factor in the unfortunate turn of this story.

On the day of her passing, Ms. Rousseva’s son called 911 as she was having trouble breathing. He says it was over thirty minutes before the ambulance actually arrived at their home, and at that time his mother’s heart had already stopped.

When the medical professionals arrived at their home in protective suits, she had already passed. Medics attempted to bring her back for nearly forty minutes, but they were not successful. Ms. Rousseva tested positive for COVID-19 after she passed, and the official cause of death is acute respiratory distress.

Ms. Rousseva’s passing will have a lasting impact on both her family and her community. She spoke five different languages, making her able to communicate and laugh with people all around the world. She had a deep love of music which she passed on to her son.

Her son also acknowledges the painful reality of the pandemic in that funeral services or celebrations of life are not possible at this time. In the name of protecting others and preventing further unnecessary deaths, gatherings to celebrate the lives of those taken by the virus are not possible right now. In a time where we are all going to be affected by the virus in some way, we must remember to be kind to each other and help out in any way that we can.