Chandler Councilman loses mother to COVID-19 - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Councilman loses mother to COVID-19

May 1st, 2020 development
Chandler Councilman loses mother to COVID-19

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The deadly COVID-19 virus has claimed the life of Chandler Councilman Matt Orlando’s mother.

Orlando said his mother, Teresa Orlando, passed away April 6 – the same day her doctors in New Jersey confirmed she had contracted the coronavirus.

Orlando said his 84-year-old mother was tested on April 1 and her condition quickly deteriorated over the next few days to the point where she suddenly stopped breathing.

Due to the hospital’s safety protocols, Orlando and his family were unable to be present at his mother’s bedside during her last moments.

“She basically died alone,” the councilman said, “I just hope it was peaceful.”

Orlando’s mother is one of the more than 2,300 people to die from COVID-19 in New Jersey, a state that has seen significantly more cases of the virus than many other parts of the country.  By contrast, Arizona’s coronavirus death count surpassed 100 over Easter.

Orlando, who’s serving his fifth term on the Chandler City Council, said his mother’s death has forced him to examine the global pandemic from a new perspective.

All the numbers and figures he sees on the news suddenly feel more personal after his mother’s death has become one of the data points.

“Now there’s faces to that number and one of those numbers is my mom’s face,” he said.

Orlando’s family suspects Teresa may have caught the virus while recuperating from knee surgery at a rehabilitation facility. The odds of her overcoming the disease were probably low, Orlando added, since she had suffered from asthma – which, with her age, put her into a high-risk category for the disease.

Patients with pre-existing heart and lung conditions have tougher times surviving the virus because it severely impacts the respiratory tract, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned.

Orlando said he last spoke to his mother on the Saturday before her death. She claimed to have been feeling better and was anxious to get out of the hospital, he recalled.   

As a joke, Orlando told his mother she would have to show the doctors she could tap dance before they’d discharge her. His mother laughed and told Orlando she had never learned that particular dance.

“I said, ‘Well it’s a good opportunity to learn while you’re there,’” he recalled.

Orlando said he was planning to call again the following Monday, but got the heartbreaking news of his mom’s passing before he got a chance.

Orlando’s father had been calling Teresa on a daily basis throughout her hospital stay. Though his father was able to speak to her the day before she died, Orlando said he didn’t get a chance for a more personal goodbye.   

The whole grief process has been rather difficult, Orlando added, since he and his four siblings are spread across the country and are unable to physically console one another – or even have a timely funeral.

They’ve been having family meetings over Zoom, trying to figure out whether they can plan any type of memorial service.

It’s unclear exactly when it will be safe for the family to gather together, but Orlando hopes they can schedule a service sometime this summer.

Orlando was tasked with writing his mother’s obituary – a duty he found challenging since it’s difficult summarizing 84 years of a person’s life down to a few short sentences, he said.

His mother was affectionately referred to as “Duchie” by her eight brothers and sisters, as she liked to think of herself as like the Duchess of a large royal family.

She married Orlando’s father at a young age and the two remained together for more than 60 years.   

She lived a simple life, Orlando remarked, but an important one.

Since the COVID-19 virus first made its presence known in Arizona earlier this year, Orlando said he’s advocated for being extra cautious in suppressing its spread around Chandler.

He’s been in favor of restricting access to public places and encouraging residents to practice social distancing.

He said his mother’s death has only enhanced his conviction that cities should be stringent about protecting citizens from the virus.

“I’d rather be criticized for overreacting than maligned for underreacting,” Orlando added.