Nursing home receptionist, former teaching assistant dies after contracting COVID-19

Coronavirus

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Nancy MacDonald was a giver.

The 74-year-old was the evening receptionist at Orchard View Manor, which the Rhode Island Department of Health reports has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths of any long-term care or assisted living facility in the state. 

Before working at the East Providence nursing home, Nancy served as a teaching assistant for children with special needs at Riverside Middle School for 20 years.

“I’ve heard so many stories about what’s she’s done,” her daughter Bethany tells Eyewitness News. “Children that say, ‘Oh your mom taught me how to read, your mom taught me how to write, your mom taught me numbers, how to do math.’ There’s so many out there. It’s overwhelming.”

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Nancy was also a cheerleading coach for 18 years. 

Her last shift at Orchard View was Tuesday, April 14.

“She came home and wasn’t feeling well,” Bethany recalled. “She had some cough medicine. The next morning she was still in bed. She didn’t get out of bed. So, she went to bed that evening and it was about 1 o’clock Thursday morning we had her transported to Rhode Island Hospital. When she was transported, they did a COVID-19 test and it came back positive.”

Bethany said her mother never left the hospital. She died on April 25 at 6 p.m.

“The last words I heard from her were ‘I love you too.’ So then and there, I knew she loved me, my brother and my father. Those are the last words I heard from her,” Bethany said.

Bethany said the virus has forever changed her family. As she begins to process the loss of her mother, she hopes no other family has to share this pain.

“To be honest, when it [coronavirus] started, I didn’t take it seriously and look where I am,” she said. “You don’t want to be here. You don’t want to feel what I feel. Please wear a mask, please. You might not be saving your life, but you’re saving someone else’s mother’s life.”

Bethany said her mom was cremated, and they plan to hold a celebration of life with Nancy’s family and friends at a later date.

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