Marcus Banks said that when his mother tested positive for the new coronavirus a couple of weeks ago, he fully expected she would survive it.
A nurse for 42 years at Greenwood Leflore Hospital, Dorothy Jean Boles took it hard whenever a patient she cared for died. Her son, Greenwood’s fire chief and a member of the hospital board, said it still seemed unreal Monday, three days after his mother’s death, that the tables would be turned at the very facility where she had devoted herself for so long.
“I never thought my momma would die from coronavirus,” he said. “She was getting some of the best care available. Those docs and nurses were phenomenal.”
Mrs. Boles, 65, is one of four Leflore County residents to have died from COVID-19, a respiratory disease, since its outbreak last month.
Her death has devastated not only her three children but those who worked with her.
“She put her life on the line like all other nursing staff put their life on the line,” said Gloria Boyd, the chief nursing officer at Greenwood Leflore Hospital. “In my heart, I never dreamed that any of our staff would be affected to the point where it would cause death.”
Mrs. Boles was admitted to the hospital on March 22, according to Banks. She had a cough, a fever and some shortness of breath — some of the tell-tale symptoms of COVID-19. She was tested for the coronavirus, and a couple of days later the result came back positive.
Banks said it is unknown how his mother contracted the disease, but she was making progress toward recovery up until last Thursday, when suddenly she took a dramatic turn for the worse.
“The kidneys started to fail on her,” he said. “On Friday, she was gone.”
His mother had some underlying health issues, but Banks declined to specify what they were. He said he has not been asked to be quarantined.
He said his mother loved being a nurse, and she often brought her work home in more ways than one.
“My siblings and I could tell when she lost a patient because she would come home and just cry,” he said.
She would also regularly take into their home patients who had nowhere to go after they were discharged from the hospital. Usually it would only be for a few days, but Banks remembered one such patient, Eddie Lee Jackson, who became part of the family.
Jackson, now deceased, had been the victim of an accidental gunshot in his early 20s and the injury required him to wear a colostomy bag. Mrs. Boles, said Banks, was worried Jackson would not be able to take care of the appendage properly.
“Once she nursed him back to health, he just hung around. She just felt that nobody could take care of him like she could.”
Jackson stayed for about five years, moving out when he got into a romantic relationship.
“And she cried when he left,” Banks said of his mother.
A child of sharecroppers from Philipp, Mrs. Boles emphasized education to Banks and his younger brother and sister. Mrs. Boles was a graduate of Amanda Elzy High School and became a licensed practical nurse through a program at Mississippi Delta Community College.
A decade ago, she became an ordained minister, founding the nondenominational First Chosen Tabernacle Church. She was as compassionate with her religious flock as she was with her patients, Banks said. She would take the needy meals and pay some of their bills.
“I felt like sometimes people didn’t really appreciate her and even took advantage of her,” her son said. “But that’s just the way God made her. I had to let her be her.”
Gloria Boyd knew Mrs. Boles from their shared health-care profession, and they became best friends when the two went to the same ministry school together. “She was a great pastor who made sure that her people were spiritually inclined and that we walked in a real relationship with the Lord,” Boyd said.
Around the hospital, Mrs. Boles was known as “Mama Boles” by other members of the nursing staff, who considered her a mentor and a counselor, Boyd said.
“She told me every day, ‘I love you.’ And I would say, ‘I love you.’ I’ve been missing that since Friday.”
Mrs. Boles worked on the fifth-floor medical surgical unit at the hospital. Dr. John F. Lucas III, a vascular surgeon, worked with her for all of his 33 years of practice in Greenwood.
“She was a very kind, caring and hard-working individual,” Lucas said. “She will be sorely missed caring for my surgery patients.”
Mrs. Boles cared deeply about the hospital and used her people skills to try to unify those who worked there, he said. Her dedication and devoutness were obvious.
“I know that God will be looking over her in her new life.” Lucas said.
Visitation for Mrs. Boles will be from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday at Townes Funeral Home in Grenada. A graveside service will be held at noon Saturday at Holly Grove Cemetery in Philipp.
The funeral will be small, in keeping with the recommendations of state and federal health officials that church and social gatherings include no more than 10 people so as to slow down the spread of COVID-19. At the visitation, mourners will be asked to follow a “two in, two out” rule and not congregate.
Banks said although it bothers him that the pandemic will prevent his mother’s many friends from fullying paying their last respects, it would not have bothered her.
“She was a very modest woman. She didn’t care a lot about the traditional funeral. This will be very much in line with the way she would have wanted it.”
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.