A beloved intensive care unit chief at a hospital in downtown Baltimore died Saturday of the coronavirus.
Dr. Joseph Costa, who was in charge of critical care at Mercy Medical Center and helped treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, passed away at age 56 due to the virus, reports NBC News.
Costa worked for 23 years at Mercy, and “dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients,” said Sister Helen Amon, the chair of Mercy’s board of trustees, and David Maine, the president and CEO of the hospital, in a joint statement.
In 2005, Costa became chief of critical care at the hospital.
Costa would frequently volunteer to work on holidays so that his colleagues with children wouldn’t have to, and when he died, around 20 colleagues held a vigil at his bedside. Costa chaired the Medical Morals Committee at the hospital and was a member of the Mercy Health Services Board of Trustees Mission and Corporate Ethics Committee.
“When the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need,” said Amon and Maine.
His husband of 28 years, David Hart, says Costa loved his job and was surrounded by loved ones when he died. “Those who cared for Joe were his best friends,” Hart said. “A housekeeper who knelt by his bed and shook with grief said, ‘I’m now losing my best friend,’” Hart told The Baltimore Sun.
It is unclear how Costa contracted the coronavirus, but Dr. Amy Zimmerman, one of Costa’s medical school classmates, told NBC Baltimore that “this was a 56-year-old healthy man. He knew how to be careful. He knew how to take good care of himself, and he still passed away from this disease. This could happen to anybody.”
Michael Green and his wife Gail told The Baltimore Sun that when Green was placed in a medically-induced coma for almost seven weeks due to the coronavirus, Costa would speak with her regularly over the phone.
“He said to me, ‘because families can’t be here, we not only think of your husband as our patient, but you’re our patients as well. And we’re here to take care of you as much as we’re here to take care of your husband.’”
Green, who has recently returned home after spending time in a rehab facility to continue his recovery, hoped to “thank him and the rest of the staff that worked under him and tell him how much I appreciated what he did. And now that won’t happen.”
A joint tally by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian found that 850 healthcare workers have died of COVID-19 in the United States.