Kentucky Stories of Loss
Humor Always Had a Place in Our Day
Who did you lose to Covid 19? Michael Wiemers (1 of 2)
It’s the fall of 1981, and I am a Southern California girl who had just graduated from nursing school. I’d landed my “wish job” working in the Obstetrics Department of a local community hospital. The hospital wasn’t particularly large, so it was easy to know your colleagues on other floors. One day I hear through the scuttlebutt about a 3rd year medical student training there, who was living in a camper truck in the hospital parking lot. So, a few days later this guy, who I didn’t recognize, comes walking by the nurses’ station, and I blurt out, “oh, you’re the guy living in the parking lot.” Immediately I realized I had just had an “open mouth, insert foot” moment.
As the next few weeks passed on, he would conveniently saunter by, and I began to get to know him. As we chatted during the workday, I found him interesting and thought to myself, he could be the most unique person I had ever met. After several weeks, he popped in on me eating lunch in the nurses lounge. Looking very nervous, he asked if I would like to go out with him, and I said yes. Little did I know then, that three years later, we would marry and move to New Mexico to start our life together.
Even in the face of life’s ups and downs, we had a blessed 39 years which ended when Mike went into the hospital in October 2020 for diverticulitis issues. During the first year of the pandemic, he was advised to be evaluated in the E.R., but first he had to have a Covid test. The next day the test came back negative, which was no surprise as we were always careful, trying to avoid the deadly virus. When we arrived at the hospital, due to Covid restrictions, I had to leave him at the concrete barriers at the Emergency Department. How was I to know at that moment that it would be the last time I would ever see him again? After two weeks of being hospitalized, Mike became sicker, and it was not related to his diverticulitis. Eventually, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, and aggressive respiratory therapy treatment began. On my twice a day calls with his nurses, they told me he seemed to be getting worse. He couldn’t hold his oxygen levels, and his shortness of breath was worse. The doctors called to get my permission to place him on a ventilator, as he could no longer advocate for himself.
Five days later on a Saturday night, the phone rang — it’s the hospital. Over the phone I heard that the love of my life had tested positive for Covid. At that moment, it was as if I had been gut-punched, with all the air leaving my body. I was in such shock, I couldn’t find the words to even form a sentence.
And just like that, the talk went from him slowly recovering, to discussing end of life issues. In a heartbeat, my world had been flipped upside down. Apparently, during his time in the hospital, Mike had been exposed and became infected with Covid. Six days later, all hope was gone. Mike’s healthy lungs were now so badly scarred that he would never function without the ventilator. Because of Covid restrictions, there would be no opportunity to sit at his bedside, to hold his hand and say that final goodbye.
Later that day, Mike was gone. He died all alone with his doctor in the room. I had lost my person, my everything, my partner in crime. There is no doubt we loved each other, but also precious was the fact that we still really liked each other, after all those years.