British Columbia

1st B.C. nurse known to die of COVID-19 spent her life caring for others, husband says

The first known nurse to die of COVID-19 complications in B.C. is being remembered as a well loved, steady presence who dedicated her life to caring for others.

Diana Law died April 14 after a lengthy fight with the disease

Diana Law, 57, was a Peace Arch Hospital patient care co-ordinator. She died April 14, 2021, after a lengthy illness. (Glen Culshaw)

The first known nurse to die of COVID-19 complications in B.C. is being remembered as a well loved, steady presence who dedicated her life to caring for others.

Diana Law, a 57-year-old patient-care co-ordinator at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, became sick in December and was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital.

Glen Culshaw, Law's husband of almost 30 years, says she died April 14 after a lengthy battle with complications from COVID-19.

She leaves behind a daughter, Sydney, 19, and 16-year-old son Alexander.

"She spent her whole life basically looking after other people," said Culshaw.

Law is one of 7,278 B.C. health-care workers and 1,219 nurses to become infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 since January 2020, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Across the country, 84,222 health-care workers have contracted the illness, according to Statistics Canada.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Union (CFNU) believes Law is the first nurse in B.C. to die of COVID-19, and said she is the 50th known health-care worker to die of the disease in Canada.

Kidney transplant recipient

Culshaw said his wife was inspired by her father, John, a physician who she helped as a teenager.

"She was smart. She should have been a doctor, really," Culshaw said.

He is convinced his wife was exposed to COVID-19 at work.

Law had not been vaccinated at the time she became ill. He said his wife had a kidney transplant in 2013 and also had diabetes, so she was immuno-compromised.

She took anti-rejection drugs as a result of the transplant, and at the time, directives were not clear about whether the COVID-19 vaccine was safe for transplant recipients. Health officials have since advised that the vaccines are safe for transplant recipients.

Culshaw said Law began showing signs of illness after Christmas. After she was admitted to the intensive care unit at VGH on Dec. 31. The family then learned she had COVID-19; Culshaw and his son also tested positive.

While he and his son recovered, Culshaw said Law's condition became progressively worse. she was put on a ventilator and later an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, which oxygenates blood outside the body.

Had she survived, struggles with blood clots would have probably cost her the use of part of a hand and foot, Culshaw said.

"That's how bad it was," he said.

Diana Law with her children Sydney and Alexander in 2013. (Sylvia Law)

'A very giving person'

Culshaw said his wife had spent her life in nursing. She initially worked at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver before transferring to Peace Arch.

Culshaw said his wife dealt with staffing, ensuring doctors' orders were written and tests were properly scheduled.

In her obituary, she was described as "a very giving person, easy to talk to, and quick to step in where help was needed." Outside of work, Culshaw described his wife as a dedicated friend.

"I used to think her hobby was worrying about her friends. When her friends had problems, they became her problems. That's what I said: 'When we retire, you've got no hobbies.' And she'd say: 'Oh, I've got you. That's enough of a hobby."

This weekend, tributes to Law poured in, many touting her calm leadership in the hospital where she worked.

"She was the steady hand that steered the ship in any crisis. She was a quiet strength and everyone loved and respected her," wrote Sheila Rhodes on Twitter.

In lieu of a memorial service, people are being asked to consider registering as an organ donor or donating to the B.C. Kidney Foundation, Diabetes Canada, the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation or a local food bank.

On April 16, the CFNU released a memorial to health-care workers who have died.

"The CFNU recognizes and honours all ... who paid the ultimate price and lost their lives in this fight," CFNU president Linda Silas said in an email to CBC on Monday.

On April 16, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control released updated data on how many health-care workers have contracted COVID-19. (BCCDC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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