An immigrant doctor who succumbed to COVID-19 is being honored with a giant mural in New York City. Dr. Ydelfonso Decoo is a loving family man, a grandfather, and a passionate pediatrician with deep compassion for his community.
The 20,000-square-foot mural, displayed at the Queens Museum – Flushing Meadows Corona Park, is also a tribute to the hundreds of healthcare workers who perished because of the novel coronavirus.
SOMOS, a community of 2,500 immigrant physicians dedicated to serving thousands of individuals in the low-income and immigrant population, had the mural painted in honor of Dr. Decoo and all healthcare professionals who bravely fought the pandemic.
Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada painted the majestic mural in just five days. In a statement to CBS News, he said he’s always wanted to use his skills to bring awareness to social issues. As the pandemic ravaged the globe, it dawned on him that deaths among the Latin and African American communities were disproportionately high.
“I wanted to figure out a way if there’s a way to create an image that can help us mourn together in a time when the nation feels more divided than ever,” said the artist.
Dr. Ramon Tallaj, the chairman of the board of SOMOS, was friends with Dr. Decoo for decades. During an emotional phone interview with CBS News, he described the late physician as a sincere family man. They used to travel together to conduct missions in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico.
Dr. Decoo provided unwavering service to his community up until his final days. He volunteered tirelessly, delivering food and helping people who were suffering from the economic hardships brought about by the health crisis.
“We need people who are willing to risk their lives, and in the moment, nobody wants to,” Dr. Tallaj said. “It’s people like us, people of color, who have to take care of the community. … Frontline workers are regular people that wash the dishes, take the train, and they are the ones who are dying.”
Dr. Decoo, a Dominican immigrant and pediatrician who lived in Washington Heights, deferred his retirement to treat patients with COVID-19. He’s co-founded SOMOS, and he was one of the first doctors in Queens to perish from the virus in April. He was 70 years old.
“He was closer and closer to retiring, and instead of bowing out and taking the easy road, he said, ‘No, no, I’m going in,'” Rodriguez-Gerada said. “He wanted to be there for his patients and he lost his life to it. I mean, basically that makes him a hero.”
Another doctor who lost his life while treating COVID-19 patients is Dr. Alfa Saadu, a 68-year-old physician working part-time at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Hertfordshire, England.
Although he already retired in 2017, Dr. Saadu couldn’t help but fulfill his desire to serve the sick. According to his son, his greatest love is medicine – his eyes would light up whenever someone talked about it. This passion is also the reason why he couldn’t bring himself to retire fully.
Sadly, this dedication led to his demise. Dr. Saadu succumbed to the virus after fighting it for two weeks.
Although it’s unfortunate, the deaths of these two doctors and many others like them weren’t in vain. Up until their final days, they served their countrymen with all their might and heart. Many mothers, fathers, and children defeated COVID-19 and came home to be with their families because of them. Their legacy of saving lives will surely remain forever in the hearts of the people they’ve touched.
Even though the mural was made in honor of Dr. Decoo and his fellow immigrant healthcare workers, by extension, it is also a tribute to all the frontliners bravely fighting this crisis. His life is an incredible testament to the dedication of ALL healthcare workers risking their lives in the name of saving others’.
RELATED VIDEO: Massive mural of Greta Thunberg stares down at San Francisco