When the coronavirus pandemic began, Amanda Bouffioux and her family stayed home.
Bouffioux, an Inupiaq Alaska Native, worked as an administrative assistant for the Anchorage management services office of NANA, an Alaska Native corporation owned by more than 14,000 Inupiaq shareholders. During the week, she would go into the office only to pick up paperwork. The office reopened in the summer and she made sure to wear her mask.
After a family day trip to the port city of Seward in mid-August, Bouffioux started to feel sick. Her partner, Scott Wells, insisted she go to a hospital, where she tested positive for the virus. She was sent home and isolated herself in their bedroom, away from their children, Chris, 8, and Terrisa, 9. He and the children had tested negative.
When her condition worsened, Wells took her back to the hospital and this time, she was admitted. Several days later, on Aug. 19, she was intubated and put on a ventilator.
“She called the day they were going to intubate her,” Wells said in an interview. “I told her I loved her, not to worry about the kids, just work on getting better. That was the last time I talked to her.”
Bouffioux died Sept. 8 at a hospital in Anchorage. She was 44.
Amanda Pauline Bouffioux was born Dec. 26, 1975, in Kotzebue, a village above the Arctic Circle in northwest Alaska. Her birthparents gave her up for adoption to Edna and Norman Bouffioux.
A fan of country singer George Jones, she sang in her high school choir and played the flute.
Bouffioux was taking courses online at a Native community college, and had dreams of owning her own business.
“When she put her mind to something, she made things happen,” said her sister Clarissa Coffin. “She was so unselfish and just so good at taking care of people.”
At her burial in Anchorage, her three older sons from a previous relationship, Nickolaus Bouffioux, Daniel Gallahorn and Robert Gallahorn, served as pallbearers.
“She was quiet and shy and so smart,” Wells said of Bouffioux. “She loved to read and loved to learn and she was great at Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. She was an amazing mother. I’ve never known a more patient and loving mother.”
For her family and friends, Bouffioux’s death was a stark reminder of the unpredictability of the virus; at one point the state had the lowest mortality rate in the country, but cases are on the rise, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Alaska Native people are particularly affected, said Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, a public health researcher for the department.
From the beginning of the pandemic through Oct. 15, Alaska Native people were hospitalized five times more often than white Alaskans, and the mortality rate for them was more than four times higher.