‘I’m going to dance at your wedding!’ Something about him struck me. I tried to play it cool. We never saw what was to come.’: Woman loses husband to Covid-19, advocates for other victims after viral post

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Disclaimer: There are mentions of loss in this story and may be triggering to some.

“Throughout everyone’s life at one time or another, they’ve experienced having a crush on someone. Not the, ‘Oh this person is attractive’ type of crush, the type of crush where when that person walks in a room the world seems brighter, this warm feeling fills your heart, and you want to literally blurt out how you feel about them, even if there’s a chance they don’t feel the same way. I was lucky enough to get that chance and have those feelings reciprocated. Then 10 years later, it was ripped away from me in a way I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I met Jonathan in 2006; we were both involved with Greek Life in college. I will never forget the moment I first saw him, there was something about him that struck me in a way I’ve never felt before, but I quickly discovered Jonathan had a girlfriend. So, I stuffed the crush in the back of my head and was happy to just be his friend. Jonathan and I quickly bonded over our love of tattoos (but our inability to get them out of fear of our parents), Law and Order SVU, and Dexter. Jonathan was a kind, funny, sweet, caring human being; I’ve never heard anyone say a negative thing about him.

Gina Sierra Photography

When I started dating one of his close friends and fellow fraternity member Shaun, Jonathan was a huge supporter of our relationship. He quickly became my ‘boyfriend advisor,’ someone I could talk to about my relationship and know he would be logical and fair. I also became this for Jonathan, although I wasn’t as fair or logical. It always frustrated me who Jonathan dated, I never felt anyone was good enough or treated him as well as he deserved. But at the time, I didn’t realize those feelings I had shoved in the back of my head would drive my relationship advice.

Now, like any relationship between two young people, Shaun and I were dramatic – break ups and make-ups were a regular occurrence. Shaun was the life of the party, he loved people and having a good time, and I was the complete opposite. I am an introvert who preferred staying in, but Shaun’s personality was infectious, and it was easy to be drawn to him. After one particular break up, I was determined to show him what he was missing. I made the decision to go to a bar, knowing one of his friends would see me and report back to him and hopefully make him miss me. Again, please keep in mind we were in our 20’s, young and so immature.

As soon as I walked in, I completely regretted my decision – this was not who I was, and my social anxiety was crippling. I was standing in the back of the bar trying to pretend I was having a good time, but I was on the verge of tears. Out of nowhere I felt someone grab my arm, I turned around ready to yell at whoever it was, but when I looked it was Jonathan. I felt safe, and so comforted seeing someone I trusted. Right away Jonathan leaned in and said, ‘Katie, what are you doing here?’ I tried to play it cool, like this was who I was, but it was obvious he wasn’t buying it. He looked at me and said, ‘Let’s go next door to a restaurant and talk’ and I was so thankful.

Jonathan bought me diet cokes all night, knowing I didn’t drink, and we just talked. I wish I remembered everything we said, but for hours we just enjoyed each other’s company. He attentively listened to me sob over the breakup with Shaun, he was understanding of my complaints but spent the entire time explaining where Shaun was coming from. Jonathan was fiercely loyal to his friends and saw only the good in people. At the end of the night, I said something dramatic about how I was going to be alone forever (again my dramatics were laughable) and I might not remember the entire conversation vividly, but I will never forget Jonathan’s response. He looked at me, smirked and said, ‘Come on Katie, I am going to be dancing at your wedding someday.’ He would be, but as the groom, not as a guest and neither of us ever saw that coming.

Courtesy of Katie Coelho

In 2010, Shaun began to experienced health issues. We tried so hard to get a grasp of them, but on November 9, 2010, Shaun suffered a seizure while he was locked in a bathroom. They couldn’t find the key to try and get him out and the way he fell obstructed his airway, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. His roommate called me to tell me, and by the time I got to the dorm the paramedics had just gotten him out and were working on him. As they ran him out on the stretcher doing chest compressions, I knew looking at him he was gone. He was on life support for two days before passing. Jonathan stepped in and became my support system, just being there for me listening to me cry and keeping me afloat. Our friendship grew and deepened over the months, turning into something more and before we knew it, we were a couple. The crush I had shoved in the back of my head so many years ago actually blossomed into the most perfect relationship and eventual marriage. We eloped on February 14th, 2013, followed by our big wedding that December.

Gina Sierra Photography
Gina Sierra Photography

Our marriage had its up and downs like any couple, but our foundation in God always blessed us. We experienced two miscarriages that were devastating and led us to IVF and conceiving our son, Braedyn. My pregnancy with Braedyn was stressful and complicated. We found out at 32 weeks Braedyn had severe neurological issues and when he was born, we were sent home on hospice. But he fought against any labels doctors put on him and has never let cerebral palsy and other medical issues define him. His medical issues brought Jonathan and I closer as a couple and to God. Nine months after Braedyn was born, we surprisingly conceived our daughter Penelope. Our family was complete, and we cherished every second.

Gina Sierra Photography
Courtesy of Katie Coelho

When the pandemic hit Jonathan was terrified, he was a Probation officer and considered an essential worker. On March 13th, he was adamant we begin to quarantine to ensure we were safe, especially for Braedyn who was considered high risk. Little did we know Jonathan had already been exposed to the virus by a co-worker that day. On March 25th, he tested positive and was sent and admitted to the hospital the next day after experiencing some respiratory issues. His oxygen levels were not critical, but out of precaution, they admitted him for monitoring. Braedyn and Penelope were tested on March 26th (I could not get a test because of the shortage at the time) and unfortunately received positive results the following day.

I’ll never forget when Jonathan received his positive results, I was terrified and began sobbing, but when the kids tested positive although concerned, I wasn’t as devastated. I’m not sure why I felt this way, and although Penelope and I were slightly symptomatic Braedyn (thankfully) was asymptomatic. Jonathan and I were in constant communication, mostly via text because he had a roommate and didn’t want to be rude. He was more worried about the kids and I then himself, but I constantly tried to reassure him God would bless us, and we would all be ok, and he believed that too.

On March 29th, I was contacted by a hospital social worker who told me Jonathan would be discharged either the 30th or 31st and wouldn’t require oxygen and Jonathan also told me his smell and taste had returned. We were excited and optimistic he would be home soon; on the 30th we were texting until about 11 p.m., joking and talking about planning a vacation to Disney for Christmas. We exchanged goodnights and I love you’s and I went to bed happy he was recovering.

Courtesy of Katie Coelho

Six hours later, without my knowledge, Jonathan was intubated. He had called me at 5:48 a.m., letting me know his breathing had gotten funny, so they were sending him to ICU to receive more oxygen, but to call him when I woke up (for some reason I had put my phone on vibrate and missed his call). Right away I began calling the ICU, but was not told he was intubated, just that a Doctor would call me soon. Soon after I was told this, I received a call from a nurse telling me Jonathan had pulled the breathing tube out and was screaming for me (this was the first time I was told he had been intubated) and they put Jonathan on the phone. He was slightly sedated and kept telling me he was feeling better and if he could come home, I told him he was going to go to sleep but in a few days the kids and I would be there to pick him up. I kept telling him how much I loved him, and he would be ok. I never thought he wouldn’t be.

Jonathan was on a ventilator for 22 days and to say it was a roller coaster is an understatement. Some days were really good, and others were not. Communication with the hospital was lackluster, even though I called multiple times a day just trying to figure out what was going on. They were overwhelmed with cases and I understood, but so many questions went unanswered. I received so many conflicting reports each day; it was hard to advocate for my husband.

The last week of my husband’s life, his team of doctors were changed after nurses were adamant, he needed a change of care. Once this happened, he improved dramatically for the first time. The doctors communicated with me and were so optimistic he would recover. We finally had a game plan and were confident he would come off the ventilator by the end of the week. On the morning of April 21st, I spoke with his doctor who discussed my husband eventually being discharged and how recovery at home would be extensive, but I knew he could do it. The same night, I spoke with my husband’s nurse, who told me he had a great day being trialed off the ventilator. She told me we were going to trial him again the next day and then the following day we would take him off it completely. We were sticking to the plan the doctors and I had discussed. I asked if I could Facetime him, and she recommended letting him rest because he worked so hard that day and she didn’t want him to try and communicate with me. This could possibly work him up and risk a setback, but she did say she would Facetime the moment he woke up.

I was hopeful for the first time in a long time. My sister texted and asked how Jonathan’s day went and how I felt about it. I told her what a great day he had and what I said next will haunt me for the rest of my life – I told her I felt good, but I was afraid to feel good. Five hours after my phone call with Jonathan’s nurse, a doctor attempted to take Jonathan off the ventilator completely. He seemed to be doing well, was responding to their questions and was maintaining good oxygen levels. My husband’s medical records state he appeared uncomfortable, so the decision was made to put him back on the ventilator. As soon as they administered the sedatives to my husband he went into cardiac arrest. I was immediately called and told to get to the hospital, but by the time I arrived my husband was gone. I sat with my husband after he was gone, as did his parents. The condition my husband was in was terrifying; he looked as if he suffered, that he didn’t die peacefully. I never spoke to the doctor who made the decision that night. I just kept rubbing my husband’s head, telling him how sorry I was, how much I loved him and I’m sorry we didn’t stick to the plan. I’ll forever wonder why we didn’t and why I wasn’t included in the decision.

After saying my final goodbye to Jonathan, I collected his belongings and once I got home, I turned on his phone. He hated technology and didn’t have a cloud so I was terrified I would lose all his pictures. Upon turning his phone on, his notes were up and after a second of processing what I was seeing, I realized he had written the kids and I a goodbye note two days after he was admitted to the hospital. In it he told us how much he loved us, and how we had given him the perfect life, he finished it with telling us, ‘To always be happy no matter what.’ Out of complete grief and disbelief, I shared his note on our son’s Facebook page (we had created it to document his condition and to hopefully give hope to other families). I never expected the response we received. The note went viral; dozens of articles were written about my husband’s love for us and I was even asked to be on Anderson Cooper and other media outlets. I was compelled to do it because I wanted everyone to know who Jonathan was, to see what an amazing person he was and how much he loved us. I didn’t want him to be forgotten.

Dansbury News Times
Dansbury News Times

Since my husband passed the grief has been consuming; every day I wake up for the kids, but it’s painful. I could never describe how much I miss him, the guilt I feel and how I failed him. The faith that was once our foundation is gone, I don’t know how to get it back and where to go from here. My heart breaks for our children who are so young and deserve to have their dad here; my husband was the most amazing father. My life is now dedicated to making sure our children are happy and they will know who their dad was as they are too young to remember him themselves. But for me, the black hole of not having him here feels endless. I am not sure I could ever be happy again.

Courtesy of Katie Coelho

Because of my husband I have been able to advocate for the victims of Covid, to make them more than a statistic. I hope my husband’s love for us will allow me to continue to do so, that the almost 400,000 victims won’t ever be forgotten. I’m hopeful our story will continue to show everyone what love should look like, and what being a good person looks like. Jonathan embodied everything good in this world, and I was so lucky to be loved by him. I just hope he is proud of me the same way I was always so proud of him.”

J. Alviti Photography
J. Alviti Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Coelho of Southbury, CT. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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