Stories: Who You Have Lost

John and Me

Who did you lose to Covid 19? John Haponik (1 of 2)

John died of Covid-19 on January 29, 2021.
Thirty-seven years is a long time, and yet not nearly enough. I thought I was looking for something to read when I went into the bookstore at the Paducah Mall. Instead, I found the love of my life.

I nearly lost him twice. The first time when he was working as a contract chemical engineer in Baton Rouge, LA, living out of a hotel room when he came down with a mystery illness. The ER in Louisiana was no help; they acted like they thought he was a pill seeker. He had a terrible headache, and when he was able to drive, he packed up his things and came home to me. Four months, five doctors, seven spinal taps and dozens of tests and we finally had the diagnosis of Cryptococcus Neoformans; Fungal Meningitis. He lost sight in one eye became deaf in one ear and had only partial hearing in the other, but he was still my John and we managed just fine, though with a bit more yelling. I stayed with him for weeks in the hospital, even sleeping in the bed with him. His doctor would peek around the door before coming in of a morning, “good morning, love-birds,” he would say. We were stronger together, and nothing could come between us.

That disease is 100% fatal without treatment and the only treatment at that time was a drug called Amphoterison B. If you watched House on tv, you will remember they called it “Amphi-terrible” because it is so hard on the body. Two weeks inpatient and six weeks outpatient IV treatment with Amphi-terrible and he was finally pronounced ‘cured’. Once his doctor cleared him to drive, the first thing he did was go fishing at Kentucky Lake, where he cast off his wedding ring. He had lost so much weight it just went flying off into the water. I bought him another on Ebay. This one is plain gold and has two sets of initials in it with the date “14-11-36” which we teased was our new anniversary. I’m wearing it now.

Well, two years after being cured of fungal meningitis, we had moved to Robinson IL where John worked at Marathon Petroleum. He fell ill again. I gave him a couple of aspirin and we went to a local doctor who turned out to be a terrible diagnostician. Two visits to this guy without any results and I finally gave up and took John to the ER where he is diagnosed with “heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure…” The aspirin probably saved his life, the ER doctor said. After John got stabilized at the small hospital they moved him by ambulance to a larger one in Terra Haute IN. A week in Terra Haute, and they send him to a much bigger hospital in Indianapolis for heart surgery. His surgeon, Dr. Hormuth, says that only maybe 2 of 10 heart surgeons would operate on a person as sick as John. Dr. Hormuth has a huge ego, but when you routinely and literally hold someone’s life in your hands, you can be justified thinking you are God’s gift. He plays in a jazz band after hours too, and you have to love that. I stayed with John in the Cardiac ICU till a grumpy night nurse told me to leave. After I left, John’s stats went a bit bonkers and he kept that nurse busy trying to make him comfortable. After a while she asked him if he wanted her to go find me. “No,” he said, “but maybe you’ll let her stay tomorrow.” She did.

These last 12 years here in Somerset have been pretty good, for the most part. Our kids, Stacy and Michael, have both grown up. Stacy always felt like more of a ‘northerner’ than a ‘southerner’ and now lives in Connecticut. Michael is still at home and has been a blessing to me these last few months since John died. They are both a wreck, missing their dad. Me too. It occurs to me that I have loved John for 37 years, and that is a long time, more than half my life. Stacy and Michael have loved him their entire lives. He was a great dad…. and an even better friend and husband.

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