'The 37th person was my mother, and she had a name:' Family of woman who died from COVID-19 looking for answers

Michelle Levesque says her mother, Denise, was much more than the 37th person to die from COVID-19 in New Brunswick. 

The 86-year-old from Grand Falls had a big, loud and warm personality – ensuring the customers at the restaurant where she once worked shared good food – and a good laugh.

The mother of seven, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of 30 would 'give the shirt off her back,' says her daughter.

"This morning on the radio … the news come on and again, 'an individual from 80 to 89, the 37th person to die of COVID in New Brunswick,'" she said in an interview with CTV Atlantic. "The 37th person was my mother, and she had a name. And her name was Denise."

She says her mother contracted the virus on April 20 at Pavillon Beau-Lieu, a special care home in Grand Falls, N.B. Levesque had hoped the vaccine would help with the symptoms, but Denise had only received her first dose.

In a phone call Thursday evening, Levesque knew her mother's health had changed.

"She couldn't get a word out," she said. "I said, 'Mom,' and … she said, 'I can't anymore.'"

Denise was taken to the Edmundston Regional Hospital, where she died just after 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

As of Monday, 35 residents and 14 staff at Pavillon Beau-Lieu have contracted COVID-19. Two people have died, including Denise.

Levesque has more questions than answers as to how the outbreak happened. The owner of the long-term care home said they couldn't give an interview.

Levesque doesn't believe it was her mother's time. She said because of the virus, her mother can't be laid to rest the way she had wished.

"There's no embalming … they're not allowed to unwrap the body," she said. "They can't even unwrap her to put her clothes on her."

She hopes there are no more deaths due to COVID-19 in N.B., but if there are - Levesque is asking that New Brunswickers think of the people and their families – behind the numbers.

"They're not numbers, they're people and they have families who love them."