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Hawaii sign language interpreter for COVID-19 briefings dies of virus during San Diego trip

Sign language interpreter for coronavirus briefings dies of COVID-19 during trip to San Diego area
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 20:43:24-05

LAKESIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - San Diego family members are mourning the coronavirus-related death of a sign language interpreter known for translating virus briefings in Hawaii.

During the pandemic, Patty Sakal has been become a familiar face in Hawaii, as a sign language interpreter at government briefings on COVID-19.

In December, she had a decision to make. Her youngest daughter, Andrea McFadden, a San Diego-based Navy sailor, would be deploying in February. Sakal wanted to visit but was worried about the virus.

"Family members told her not to go. I did too, but she still came," said McFadden.

Some four days after flying in on Dec. 23, Sakal lost her sense of taste and smell. She was staying with McFadden at her home in Lakeside. Then came the fatigue and stomach pain. She tested positive for coronavirus and then started having trouble breathing.

Sakal ended up in the ER, and days later, she was placed on a ventilator. After several more days, on Jan. 15, the mother of three, and grandmother of two passed away at the age of 62.

"Heartbroken doesn’t even being to explain it. It was too soon. It should not have been her time," said McFadden. "She was caring, creative, selfless, and we miss her."

McFadden says her mom was a fierce advocate for the deaf and hearing-impaired community. Both of Sakal's parents were deaf. Sakal was determined to be on the frontlines, as she translated briefing after briefing.

"She wanted to make sure they knew what was going on and would stay healthy," said McFadden.

McFadden says Sakal was always diligent about wearing masks.

"She wore masks and shields. During the visit, she wore masks in house, masks in the car," McFadden.

McFadden doesn’t know where her mother contracted the virus, but she can’t help but wonder if it happened while her mother was traveling to San Diego.

"I don’t think anybody should travel unless they absolutely have to ... Please take all the precautions. This virus doesn't discriminate. The sacrifice will be worth it because you will still have your family," said McFadden.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family with expenses.