She is survived by three daughters, four grandchildren and her husband, Peter.
“Everything for her was about the kids,” said Aravely Darco, another educational assistant, at PS 228 in East Elmhurst, where Donovan worked with kids in pre-K through second grade. “She just wanted to teach.”
Donovan had a bachelor’s degree from Queens College and an online master’s degree in education, but she was content working as an educational assistant.
“She loved reading to the kids,” Darco added. “She took pictures of the kids’ artwork and wrote about what they drew. She put up the pictures in the hallway for the parents to see.”
When Darco needed help with a writing course for college, Donovan went over to her house and tutored her.
“Alison was an excellent writer,” she said.
“She always seemed to be a calming influence,” said Nancy Rosenthal, a teacher at PS 228. “Whatever classroom she was in, she pitched right in and helped the kids.”
Donovan took great pride in her grandchildren.
“I’ve never seen anybody talk about their grandkids so much,” Darco said.
Just as Donovan was there for her students at school, she was there for her family at home.
“She was just a selfless person,” said her oldest daughter, Heather. “She never turned a kid away. She took in my friends and my sisters’ friends, and took care of them when we were teenagers. One of my friends lived with us on and off for three years.
“I was a teenage mother,” Heather added. “It put a strain on our household, my mom was my rock.”
Donovan’s youngest daughter, Kimberly, gave birth to a baby girl on Valentine’s Day this year, and she was in the delivery room. And her middle daughter, Sarah, had a baby boy in North Carolina on March 19. Donovan was excited to see the new baby, but never got the chance.
On March 1, Heather said her mother had a slight cough. The doctor diagnosed her with bronchitis, so she took antibiotics.
Donovan went back to work, but when she wasn’t getting better, the doctor tested her for mononucleosis. She never had a fever.
“She didn’t trigger any signs of what to watch for with this virus,” Heather said.
On March 15, Donovan thought she was on the road to recovery, but the next day she couldn’t lift her head off the couch. Her lips turned blue because she wasn’t getting enough oxygen.
“We went in the ambulance to Forest Hills Hospital,” Heather said.
There was a “no visitor” rule at the hospital, so Heather never saw her mother again.
“That’s been the hardest part,” she said. “We could have held her hand, talked to her, fixed her hair. We couldn’t do anything.”
Donovan was put on a ventilator at the hospital. During the second week, the medical team put her on dialysis and her kidney function improved, and her blood pressure stabilized. On April 6, the doctors said “she was doing great.”
“They thought she had a chance,” Heather said.
But on April 7, Donovan’s kidneys shut down and the doctors put her on blood pressure stabilizers. By April 8, the medical team saw that there was no neurological activity in her brain. She died April 9.
“She gave it every ounce of fight she had,” Heather said. “The only peace I have been able to make with this, part of the comfort we took, is we can only hope that her ventilator can save another family from having to go through what we did.