As Andrea Schwalb of Bloomington fought for her life, she had a nickname for COVID-19.
“She called this disease ‘the devil.’ She’d say, ‘This disease is the devil,’” said Andrea’s mother, Grace.
Andrea died Sunday from complications related to COVID, her mother said. At 34 years old, Andrea appears to be the youngest person in McLean County to die after contracting the virus. The county’s health department on Thursday reported the death of a “woman in her 30s” with underlying health conditions. Grace Schwalb, who lives in Jacksonville, Ill., confirmed it was Andrea.
“She was so sweet. She had such a lovely smile,” Grace said. “She just didn’t deserve this.”
While COVID has been deadliest for older adults, young people like Andrea also can face serious complications. There is also much uncertainty about the long-term impact of COVID on young people. About 8% of McLean County’s COVID cases have been people in their 30s.
Andrea had asthma, but no other major medical issues before COVID-19, said her mother, who acknowledged that yes, many COVID patients do only see a mild case, isolate at home, and move on.
But not everyone.
“It’s like the president said, ‘Oh, they’ll get a sniffle and they’ll get over it and on they go.’ But that’s not the case with everyone anyway. The president don’t have a clue,” Grace said.
President Trump, who has faced harsh criticism for his handling of the pandemic, has falsely claimed that COVID-19 “affects virtually nobody” and that young people are not affected. Both claims are untrue.
Andrea’s family is from Jacksonville. She initially trained to work in the information technology (IT) field. But she recently completed her nursing assistant training at Midwest Technical Institute in Peoria and served her externship at Illinois Cancer Care.
“She was so proud, so pleased when she got an ‘A.’ She studied so hard for that. She was looking forward to getting a job,” Grace said. “She always liked helping people. She was so good at helping anyone who was sick or hurt.”
Andrea dealt with COVID for several weeks before her death, her mother said. She tested positive after a visit to a clinic, but didn't know how she contracted it, she said. She isolated at home for about a week, with regular telehealth visits.
But her condition worsened, and it became harder for her to breathe. She spent about two weeks in the hospital, her mother said. Doctors treated her with steroids for the asthma, and she was on oxygen. One day, Andrea texted her mother to tell her she was likely going to have to go on a ventilator.
“It was just like COVID said, ‘I’ll show you,’” Grace said.
Last Friday Andrea was transferred to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where she died Sunday.
“They let me see her through a window (and) a glass door,” Grace said.
Funeral services will be held Friday in Jacksonville, with burial at Diamond Grove Cemetery. A walk-through visitation will be held prior to the service. Masks and social distancing are required.
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