As the death rate rose across the country, it hit home here in the River City when the co-founder of the Sacramento Branch of the Black Panther Party became a casualty of COVID-19.
Esutosin Omowale Osunkoya (born Charles L. Brunson — what he called his “government name”) passed away from the complications of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, on Monday, April 13, at the University of California Medical Center, UC Medical Center. He was 76.
Brunson checked into UC Medical Center on April 1. He was accompanied by his wife, Oak Park native Margo Rose Brunson. Ms. Brunson was also diagnosed with the virus after she returned to the hospital the next day. She was released from the medical institution on April 15.
After receiving treatment around the clock, Margo Rose Brunson miraculously survived a disease she refers to as a “mad, vicious, mean fighter.” Unfortunately, when they were separated by seven floors at the hospital, her husband expired.
Bruson will be buried at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon on Tuesday, April 21, during a private service among family members. Ms. Brunson did not get efficacy, but she said the medical staff did its best and more.
“You should see what it takes to help one person,” Ms. Brunson told The OBSERVER. “They had hundreds of wires running through ‘Baba (Mr. Brunson)’ and running the best, top medicine and he still was not responding.”
Ms. Brunson also said that Mr. Brunson was sedated so that he would not make any movement, which allowed the ventilator to work more efficiently. But Mr. Brunson’s health kept deteriorating, she said.
Mr. Brunson’s respiratory system could not fight off the disease.
“So, we had to make a decision,” Ms. Brunson said. “But I’ll tell you (coronavirus) is a fighter. A mean fighter. This is the hardest thing I had to do in my life.”
The Brunson’s painful journey began on April 1 when the husband had to check into UC Davis Medical Center. Based on observation, the medical staff told Ms. Brunson that Mr. Brunson had a “kick-ass flu.” They ran a check for COVID-19 but it came back negative.
“But that was the first test,” said Ms. Brunson. “It was just at 85 percent and they were trying to deal with it. When they did a second test they said he had it (coronavirus). He was positive.”
When Ms. Brunson went home that night from the hospital she herself began to experience discomfort. She felt pain in her stomach, eyes were watering, and diarrhea set in when she was feeling slightly feverish.
Local attorney Dale McKinney, also a former member of the Sacramento Black Panther Party, had just checked on Ms. Brunson at her South Sacramento home.
Ms. Brunson went back to UC Davis Medical Center in an emergency vehicle where she was diagnosed with COVID-19. The hospital acquired two cases in 24 hours.
As of April 15, there were a total of 853 cases in Sacramento County and 32 deaths (all ages 65 or above), including the passing of Mr. Charles Brunson, the county’s public health department has reported.
Ms. Brunson said that her husband was dealing with serious respiratory issues while her symptoms were coughing, shortness of breath and a high fever.
“Our symptoms were entirely different. I couldn’t smell or taste anything,” Ms. Brunson said. “I know I tried to drink some milk and my stomach said, ‘COVID-19 is not having it.’ I threw it back up. I felt sicker.”
Ms. Brunson’s recovery from the virus was significant, as she explained. She had a infusion of medicine procedure at UC Davis Medical Center. It was also a scientific study to see how her body would respond. Blood was extracted from one of her arms to conduct the study.
“They used an infusion and gave me medicine,” Ms. Brunson said. “That medicine fought that virus out of my system. The blood that they took from me they are going to use as a study. I have to wear a mask now. But I’m cleared and protected.”
The Brunsons are pillars of the Sacramento community and have been that way for almost 55 years. A couple of years ago they celebrated the Sacramento Branch of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense’s 50th Anniversary at the Roberts Family Development Center.
Unexpectedly, now one of them is gone. They both were instrumental in building the Black Panther Party branch in Sacramento from 1968 to 1970. After it disbanded, the Brunsons continued serving the Sacramento community, notably, volunteering during the Sacramento Black Book Fair or providing African drumming at various events.
The Brunsons always showed class and compassion for the Black community of Sacramento. Also, many viewed Mr. Brunson, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, as a friend, brother, and teacher. He was born Sept. 18, 1943, in Miami, Florida.
“You never left us without a smile, a lesson, or laughter,” Kareem Daniels said of Mr. Brunson. “You will be missed.”
By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer