coronavirus pandemic

Among 25,000 LA County COVID Deaths, a VA Hospital Nurse Devoted to Helping the Least Fortunate

"We all got sick around the same time," her husband said. "Me and my son, it wasn't too bad, but we were all vaccinated. She was not."

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On Thursday, 35 reported COVID-19 deaths pushed Los Angeles County towards a morbid milestone: 25,000 total dead from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Among those who the fight with COVID was Maria Peterson, a 39-year-old registered nurse at the VA hospital in West Los Angeles.

Her family says it was her diagnosis with a rare autoimmune disease that inspired her to become a nurse in the first place.

"When she had the Guillain Barre syndrome as a child and she was paralyzed, the nurses that took care of her — that gave her the passion to do that," said Maria's husband Austin Peterson.

But that same condition also made her hesitant to get vaccinated, despite being on the front lines of the pandemic for her job.

"We all got it," Austin Peterson said. "We all got sick around the same time. Me and my son, it wasn't too bad, but we were all vaccinated. She was not."

Maria Peterson fell sick with COVID while in El Salvador, planning for a future medical mission. She ended up transferred to a hospital in Houston.

Her family rushed to see her on Wednesday night - only to miss her by hours.

"We didn’t make it in time," Austin Peterson said. "She passed away as we were taking off. But they held her body there so we could say a few things."

Like some of the other 25,000 COVID deaths in LA County, Maria Peterson died of the very virus she was fighting so hard against.

"It's not in her nature not to help people," Maria Peterson's friend Ariel Posueloz said. "And she wanted to help the least fortunate people out there... [that's] just the type of person she was."

While most of the hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, the vaccinated on Thursday accounted for 13% of hospitalized COVID patients in LA County.

Maria Peterson's family believes the vaccine could have helped save her life, and some of her patients.

"She’s just that kind of person that loves to help people, and has a soft heart if she sees someone in need," Austin Peterson said.

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