TAMPA, Fla. - Nikki Bass' life revolved around children; her three girls -- Ally, Sierra and Hannah – and the children she treated at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa.
Known by patients as "Nurse Nikki," Bass was a pediatric nurse. Like at other hospitals, the situation at St. Joe’s had been deteriorating due to surging pediatric COVID-19 cases.
"One day she came home and she was like, ‘Every kid we had today tested positive and it's just too much,’" recalled Sierra.
That didn't stop her. She kept trying to help kids as they fought off COVID.
But one day a few weeks ago, something happened that changed everything for this family.
"Some little kid managed to pull up her goggles and cough. And so we think that's how she got it," Ally said.
She and the rest of her family came down with COVID-19.
"You think it's not that bad," Sierra said, barely holding back tears. "But when you get it, it's terrible. It's horrible."
Nurse Nikki's daughters, Ally, Sierra, and Hannah
And it wasn't long before Nikki, who wasn't vaccinated, found herself as a patient in the hospital with her conditions worsening.
"She would be crying, of course, but she would be calling us on how much she loved us. She's like, ‘I love you guys so much.’ And she'd just call about that," Sierra remembered.
The calls eventually stopped when Nikki ended up on a respirator, unable to breathe on her own. Not long after, she passed away at just 38 years old.
"She was the kindest, most generous, loving daughter and mom that she could possibly be," said Anita Ward, Bass’ mother. "We miss her every minute of every day. She loved she's lost her job as a nurse. Absolutely loved her patients, her coworkers."
Family photo of Ally, Sierra and Hannah
One of those people is Ahlan Akar. She's also a pediatric nurse who, since 2015, worked with Nikki -- who tirelessly worked for her family and patients.
"She worked full time. She picked up overtime shifts. She went to school full time to become a nurse practitioner, which is so difficult," Akar said.
Akar launched a campaign to raise money for Nikki’s family, who are now facing funeral plans when they should be celebrating Nikki’s recent nurse practitioner degree.
"It's awful, like it's inevitable we're all going to die. But the timing of this is just unfair," Akar said.
Unfair for Nikki and the loved ones she leaves behind.
"If you can get vaccinated, if you want to get vaccinated, vaccinate yourself," Sierra pleaded. "She was loved by a lot of people. And we're just going to miss her every day."