LINCOLN SQUARE — Muhamed “Hamo” Mušić always looked out for his family.
Mušić was in his 20s when his family came to Chicago from Bosnia and Herzegovina, fleeing war in their home country in the ’90s. When the family of seven arrived, Mušić, the oldest child, stepped up to help his parents care for his four younger siblings, his brother said.
“I was 10 when we came here,” said his younger brother, Aid Mušić. “Hamo got his truck driver’s license in those first two years here and started providing for our family. He worked like an animal to make sure we had a good life. Eventually Hamo was able to buy my parents a home.”
Hamo Mušić, 44, died May 11 after a weeks-long battle with coronavirus. He leaves behind a wife, Radija; and three children: Belmin, 13, Aida, 12, and Armina, 11.
The Mušić family was unable to be with Hamo when he died at Swedish Hospital. Aid Mušić said he has visited his brother’s grave almost daily because he doesn’t feel a sense of closure.
“I’m still having a hard time responding when someone says, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ I have no words,” Aid Mušić said. “The whole process of grieving in this pandemic — I can’t hug anyone but at least I can tell them they’re going to be OK.”
Hamo started feeling ill April 1, according to his family. To be cautious, he self-quarantined within his Lincoln Square home away from his wife and children.
By April 11, Hamo wasn’t any better so he went to Swedish Hospital. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted for treatment. His condition continued to worsen and he was placed in the intensive care unit April 17.
“He was put on a ventilator and every day I would call at least three times hoping for better news from a doctor to hear about he was doing or for a nurse to let me speak to him,” Aid Mušić said.
By Mother’s Day, the family was feeling confident he’d recover.
“He battled this for weeks and we were so hopeful. My wife didn’t think for a second he wouldn’t be able to beat it,” Aid Mušić said. “He had a great sense of humor and we figured he’d be joking about having the best sleep of his life once he was back home and healthy.
“But the doctor called me the night after Mother’s Day and let me know he didn’t make it. That’s the hardest thing I have ever heard.”
Hamo died 11:44 p.m. May 11. The cause of death was “acute respiratory failure” due to COVID-19, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“It’s eating all of us up that none of us could be there for him at the end,” Aid Mušić said. “I’m still in shock. I thank God we had the technology to FaceTime him and he was alert a few times before he died.”
Hamo was the quintessential big brother, always ready to give his shirt off his back to anyone who needed help, his family said.
“He worked as a truck driver and one time his best friend called having issues with a rig in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Aid Mušić said. “Hamo took off and drove like four-and-a-half hours just to help him fix it. He was that kind of big brother to everyone.”
Working hard and taking care of others was something Hamo instilled in his younger brother as they grew up.
“I remember when he needed to go on the road in the truck during the winter. He’d tell me to make sure our elderly neighbors’ sidewalks were shoveled,” Aid Mušić said. “He learned from my parents that if you can do something to help, then go and do it.”
Family friend Amer Sunny Grozdanic set up a GoFundMe to help cover funeral costs and the family’s expenses. Aid Mušić said he’s been overwhelmed by the donations they’ve received in just a few days: more than $107,000 from 1,100 donors as of Tuesday, far surpassing the initial $75,000 goal.
“We are raising money to help them today, tomorrow and in the future,” Grozdanic wrote. “We raise money as a community, as friends, as family and even as strangers to help a family when it is vulnerable the most.
“Hamo would have done it for us, and without hesitation, we are doing it for Hamo, Radija, Belmin, Aida and Armina.”
In addition to coping with his own grief, Aid Mušić said he is distressed to see people treating the virus like it’s no big deal.
“It’s tough. It’s not like we can police every person’s behavior. But I just don’t get people who treat this virus like a joke when people like my brother are losing their lives to it,” Aid Mušić said. “Man, that’s just pure ignorance.”
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