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How a South Jersey family made a difficult life-ending decision for woman with the coronavirus

Retired federal worker Shirley B. Jones began feeling ill shortly after returning to Burlington County from a trip to Connecticut in March. Her husband thought she had a cold, possibly the flu, and nursed her at home.

Days later, her condition worsened. She was fatigued, coughing Pennsylvania News uncontrollably, and not eating or drinking. Bruce Jones Sr. summoned an ambulance to their Edgewater Park home and followed by car.

At Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly, Shirley Jones, 70, was taken to the emergency room and later moved to the ICU. Her husband sat in his car, anxiously waiting for answers.
Doctors believed she was infected with the coronavirus and began treating her with medications pending test results, said her son, Bruce Jr., 49, of Sicklerville.


Eleven days later, on March 31, Shirley Jones died. She was among the 646 victims claimed by the pandemic in New Jersey as of Friday.

Her family members described an emotional roller-coaster ride that began around March 18 — three days after she returned from a sorority conference and felt sluggish. Perhaps she was tired from her Amtrak trip from Philadelphia to Hartford, they thought.

“You could tell that she was tired,” Bruce said. “But that’s not uncommon. She always stays up late.”

Shirley was active in the community and always busy, her son said. She was a substitute teacher two days a week at Edgewater Park Elementary, where she enjoyed working with younger students.

She was relatively healthy without any underlying medical conditions, he said. The family believed she would recover with treatment at the hospital. She was given oxygen, which seemed to help.

Unable to see her, relatives got regular updates from hospital officials. They suggested a trial drug; doctors said she was already getting it and others. A nurse arranged for the family to speak with her.

”You could tell she was in pain. It sounded scary to me,” said Bruce, an eighth-grade math teacher. He ended the conversation by telling his mother, “I just want to let you know I love you.”

He said his mother’s condition deteriorated, and after a week on a ventilator the prognosis was grim. Her doctor asked his father, “What do you want to do?”

The family anguished over the decision and decided to stop life support on Tuesday. Jewelle Sutherland, a pulmonologist who considered Shirley like a big sister, volunteered to sit at her bedside because the family could not. She reviewed her chart and reassured the family that they had made the right decision, that there was little chance of recovery.

She died minutes after the machines stopped, and Sutherland immediately called to tell the family “it was peaceful.”

“I just feel for these families,” said Sutherland, of Virtua Pulmonology. She was not the treating physician.

Not getting a chance to say farewell to his mother was Press Release Distribution Services In Pennsylvania heartbreaking, said Bruce, her only child. “I would have liked to have been there for my mom."

Born in Suffolk, Va., Shirley Jones was one of 10 children. She was raised by her paternal grandparents. She met her future husband in high school. He became curious about her after learning they had the same birthday, Oct. 20.

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