'I miss her': Woman shares heartbreaking story of losing mother to COVID-19

ByNydia Han and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Friday, November 20, 2020
Woman shares heartbreaking story of losing mother to COVID-19
"My mom was the type of person that if you meet her once, you're a friend for life," said Jamie Lawyer.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- America has now passed the grim milestone of 250,000 COVID-19-related deaths.

To put it into perspective, that is the equivalent of wiping out the entire populations of Camden, Trenton, Mount Laurel, Atlantic City and Ocean City. The personal stories of those who've died and those who grieve painfully bring to light the impact across the country and in the Tri-State, especially on Black Americans.

The tremendous loss especially holds true for Jamie Lawyer.

"My mom was the type of person that if you meet her once, you're a friend for life," she said.

Debbie Lynn Burnside-Lawyer had a huge, radiant smile that matched her personality.

"She was always so open and loving all the time," Jamie Lawyer said of her mom.

Burnside-Lawyer was a woman of great faith, married 36 years and a mom to two daughters and grandmother to 1-year-old Madison.

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She was also an essential healthcare worker at the University of Pennsylvania hospital.

"She wore a face shield and goggles when she was checking in patients," said Lawyer. "She did not go to family gatherings or go to church. She just went to work and home."

But at the end of October, Lawyer tested positive for COVID-19. This past weekend she was laid to rest at just 67-years-old.

"I miss her calling me telling me what I should do with Madison," her daughter said. "She was my best friend, so not having her physically here is difficult."

Pastor Alyn Waller sees the impact on his congregation at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.

"If you're living in the African-American community in Philadelphia, you either have had the disease or have a significant relationship with someone who has contracted the virus," he said.

Black Americans are dying from the coronavirus at a disproportionate number nationwide. Philadelphia County mirrors the racial disparities.

"This is just bringing to light what we knew before...that when America catches a cold, the African-American community catches pneumonia," said Waller.

According to 6abc's Data Journalism team, whiter, wealthier zip codes like 19147 have fewer per-capita COVID-19 deaths.

The zip code with the highest infection and death rate is 19126, the predominantly Black, working-class neighborhoods of Oak Lane and East Oak Lane.

"And so they had to continue to go to work but without the appropriate PPE, without the appropriate understanding of what we're dealing with," said Waller.

Black Americans, including Burnside-Lawyer, are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that exacerbate the body's response to COVID-19.

Burnside-Lawyer was diabetic.

Her daughter doesn't want her mother to be remembered as just another statistic.

"I just pray that her passing won't be in vain that people will understand the magnitude of this pandemic," she said.