‘American nightmare’: Woman dies of COVID-19 after fear of hospital bills keeps her away from doctors
Doctors in surgery (Shutterstock)

An entire family affected by COVID-19 gathered at the ballpark where the amateur baseball team the Ashton A's would normally play their summer schedule - but things looked and felt different this time. The family wasn't gathered for a ball game. They were there to memorialize 54-year-old Linda Flansburgh, a woman who was known for her kindness and generosity in the community.

Flansburgh, a Black Earth, Wisc. resident, was a volunteer at the concession stand for more than a decade and was nicknamed "Flansy" by the team. Her handwritten signs were still visible in the stand even after her death on Sept. 29 - touting screaming deals like "25 cents for a 'freezie pop,' two dollars for a hot dog, three for a brat."

Flansburgh and her husband Joe had both contracted the virus, but declined to see the doctor because they feared it would lead to hospital bills they would be unable to pay - an unnecessary burden for the middle class family. Instead, they stayed in their home to quarantine - a decision that would ultimately prove deadly.

"For two weeks, they coughed and wheezed and looked at each other, alone, sequestered in quarantine with their three dogs," Flansburgh's uncle Kenneth Linde said, adding that on their 14th day of quarantine, Joe went to the store to purchase dog food and found her dead when he returned home.

Linde acknowledged that his niece was overweight and in the higher risk category for succumbing to the COVID-19 virus, but that her death was jarring for all who knew her - and those yet to meet her.

"What has been denied is the beauty of a person giving of themselves to other people, putting a smile on their face," Linde said. "Doing small things for other people that other people never would've done."

Linde wrote a eulogy for Flansburgh's funeral, but the event that was delayed one week due to his late-niece's sister contracting the deadly virus as well.

The eulogy reads, in part:

This is the story of Linda and Joe – middle class Americans, fellow Badgers - simply trying to make it through this thing called life. The challenges of living the American dream had made it difficult. Joe – a carpenter - tried it on his own and got hammered by the recession of 2007. Linda, worked for a national finance company for over 25 years until one day they announced that her job was moving to Texas because it as cheaper down there.

Linda and Joe – struggling to pay the mortgage, struggling to pay their fair share of taxes - looking for corners to cut, costs to shave, expenses to defer, trying to find health insurance they could afford and doing so only with high deductibles and astronomical co-pays... Linda and Joe - with Linda taking a second job, tending bar in a place where social distancing was difficult and one of them might have got the Coronavirus and then the other. Too financially strained to go to the doctor – too afraid to go to the hospital for fear that their 'share' of the costs would result in the American dream becoming the American nightmare, they rode it out, alone - at home! For two weeks they coughed and wheezed and looked at each other, alone, sequestered and quarantined with their three dogs – doing everything they could simply to survive.

With each day, they seemed a little better. With each day, the sun shined brighter! With each day, hope entered back into their lives that tomorrow would be better than today. On the 14th day, September 29, 2020, Joe finally felt strong enough to leave the house – only for a few minutes – just to buy some food for the dogs. When he returned, Linda was gone! Her heart had stopped and she was alone with her three “babies” lying by her side. At age 54, Linda became number 206,001.

Linde said he felt "shock, anger, depression, and an incredulous feeling because, all of a sudden, the [COVID-19] numbers meant something."