The 42-year-old cancer survivor had raised her six kids alone after their father died eight years ago.
Six children were forced to say goodbye to their mother over walkie-talkie as they watched her die of coronavirus.
Sundee Rutter, who was among the first wave of people in Washington state to be diagnosed with COVID-19, succumbed to the virus on March 16. She was just 42 years old.
The single mom-of-six had survived breast cancer, and had been left to raise the kids alone after their father died in 2012.
Her son Elijah Ross-Rutter told Buzzfeed she had taken herself to Providence Regional Medical Center — where the very first confirmed case of novel coronavirus was treated — on March 3.
“She thought she had the flu, probably,” the 20-year-old said. “But like, the coronavirus? It was kind of hard for us to understand how she could get it because not that many people had it around here.”
At the time, the state was reporting just 27 cases and nine deaths. As of Monday, those numbers stood at 5,161 and 217, respectively.
After spending eight hours inside a sealed room with doctors and nurses wearing full protective gear, they were eventually sent home. “They don’t even want to touch my mom,” Elijah said.
But four days later they had to take their mom back. This time the family were confined to the visitors waiting area, while doctors confirmed she’d have to be kept in overnight and treated for pneumonia. The next day she tested positive for COVID-19.
Unlike during her year-long cancer battle, the family were not allowed in her hospital room. Elijah, who is her fourth-oldest child, said that for a while she was able to text back; but after a while the responses turned to emojis only. “She was sending me hearts on the messages but she wasn’t replying,” he said.
On March 16, doctors called the family to tell them they needed to come to the hospital.
The six siblings, as well as Sundee’s sister and her mom, all said their goodbyes over one walkie-talkie, while the other was propped up on a pillow inside the sealed room.
“I told her I love her … she shouldn’t worry about the kids,” Elijah said.
His mom died that afternoon.
Sundee is just one of the 3,655 people in the US who have now died of COVID-19, as the number of cases here swiftly approaches 200,000.