COVID-19 Unit Nurse Dies from Coronavirus Complications: She Was 'Risking Her Life for the Lives of Others'

A nurse who was working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic has died from COVID-19 complications at the age of 51.

Sally Fontanilla died on Monday after spending two months on a ventilator in the intensive care unit, her family confirmed on a GoFundMe set up in her honor.

A description on the page described Fontanilla as a nurse of 23 years who was "risking her life for the lives of others."

Fontanilla was working in the COVID-19 unit at St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, when she fell ill, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Her husband Ben, who also works at the same hospital, told the outlet that the family was concerned for Fontanilla at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak due to her preexisting medical conditions — which included asthma and diabetes — and the nurse took several months off to protect herself.

Fontanilla's husband said she returned to work at the hospital in the summer when she thought her risk of contracting the novel coronavirus would be lower.

"We take all our precautions," one of Fontanilla's colleagues said. "We wear our masks, our shields, our gowns, our gloves, but you never know."

The telemetry nurse was diagnosed with COVID-19 in July and her "condition worsened and she ended up in ICU," according to her GoFundMe page.

"She always had an infectious personality. Willing to help, there with a smile," Fontanilla's friend told CBS Los Angeles. “We wanted everyone to know what an amazing person she was."

"We were rooting for her," the friend added.

A representative for the St. Mary's Medical Center could not be reached by PEOPLE for comment.

As of Thursday, there have been more than 7,636,000 cases of COVID-19 and 212,600 deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses in the United States, according to a New York Times database.

In San Bernardino County alone, where Fontanilla had worked, there have been at least 57,203 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 974 deaths, according to a Los Angeles Times database.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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