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Remembering the compassionate Lynne Balla, who died of COVID

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

More than 700,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19. One of them was Lynne Balla. She was 75 years old.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Balla grew up in Ohio, the oldest of four siblings in a working-class family. Her daughter Lesley says she always wanted to be a nurse, to take care and help people.

LESLEY BALLA: She married my father young. She had a baby very young at 19. And he didn't want her to go to nursing school. He's not a bad man, but he didn't want her to go to nursing school. So they ended up getting a divorce in the mid-'70s.

SHAPIRO: Lynne Balla was determined to become a nurse, so determined that she put herself through nursing school while raising three kids and working three jobs.

BALLA: My mom wasn't a complicated woman. She led a simple life. She had a great personality. She loved to make people laugh. She had a disarming way about her.

CHANG: Later in life, Lynne Balla was diagnosed with Parkinson's and moved to an assisted living facility nearby. And it was there that Lesley saw her mom for the last time, celebrating her 75th birthday in February 2020.

BALLA: We had cake. Her brother and her sister and her sister-in-law came. And we sat at a table in a part of the dining room by ourselves. We had our own little celebration. It was so sweet. And she was so happy and so lucid and talking and asking questions and FaceTiming with my brothers. And it was very sweet.

CHANG: When the pandemic struck, restrictions kept Lesley from seeing her mother. In October 2020, the virus swept through the facility, and Lynne Balla died of COVID-19 just hours after she was diagnosed.

BALLA: I know that she knows she was loved. And I hope that our absence, which was because of the pandemic - I hope she didn't think that that absence was because we didn't care.

SHAPIRO: Lesley Balla says her mother was herself to the very end. Surrounded by nurses, she often thought she was on the clock, that she was still a nurse, helping people the way she always had.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: This report incorrectly states that Lynne Balla died of COVID-19 hours after she was diagnosed. She actually died of COVID-19 hours after her care facility told her family that she was OK. Balla had in fact been diagnosed with COVID-19 a few days prior.]

(SOUNDBITE OF ARIEL ABRAMOVICH'S "RICERCAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 22, 2021 at 11:00 PM CST
This report incorrectly states that Lynne Balla died of COVID-19 hours after she was diagnosed. She actually died of COVID-19 hours after her care facility told her family that she was OK. Balla had in fact been diagnosed with COVID-19 a few days prior.