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One of the things that upsets Bruce Mathis about the June death of his 79-year-old mother, Janet Spearman of Minneapolis, is that it feels like she's just a number: one of at least 163,000 American deaths from COVID-19.

Spearman, the head operating room nurse at HCMC before moving to Arizona to continue her career, was used to the role being reversed. It was Spearman who worked to save lives, victims of bar fights or vehicle crashes, stabbings or shootings. From April until June, when she spent nearly seven weeks on a ventilator at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, it felt unnatural to Mathis to see his mother as the sedated body on the other end of a Zoom call, kept alive by nurses and machines.

"My mom was more than a statistic," Mathis said. "She meant too much to too many people. She would have been right on the front line, doing what she could to save every life she could."

For Spearman, nursing wasn't a job as much as it was her duty. She would stop on the side of the highway to help when she saw a crash. Neighbors called on her frequently for medical advice.

"If I walked in the door with a cut, she'd pull out her sutures and stitch me up herself, and she'd do the same for the kids in the neighborhood," Mathis said.

A single mom, Spearman raised two children, Mathis and a daughter, Zaneta Napue-Dale, on Park Avenue in Minneapolis, not far from Minnehaha Creek. (She later married Dr. Jesse Spearman, who preceded her in death.) Their home was a frequent gathering place for family, friends and colleagues. Spearman loved to entertain ­— she watched cooking shows and home remodeling shows for tips — and among the most requested treats was her chocolate cake or Irish cream cake.

The next-to-last time Mathis saw his mother in person was March 1. It was her birthday, and the family took her to the Bloomington Olive Garden, one of her favorite restaurants. A dozen or so people crowded around the table, an evening of hugs and kisses and joy.

Soon after that, Minnesota Masonic Home in Bloomington, the nursing home where Spearman lived, went into lockdown, then was beset with a COVID-19 outbreak. It took family wrangling hospital staff in order for them to be present at her death.

Mathis is trying to focus on his mother's life more than the isolation of her final weeks.

"She didn't let things get in her way," he said. "She didn't believe in an obstacle. Just never have an excuse, really."