To The Editor:

This letter has taken me a few weeks to write as I am sure most of you will understand; the newness and emotions associated with my husband’s death are still very raw for myself and my family.

This letter is intended to put on the front burner the real journey of a COVID-19 patient who lost his life to this horrible virus. This letter is not meant to be political or wanting to express my opinion on anyone, just a true expose of my husband Ralph’s COVID-19 journey and what this virus can really do.

Ralph was an extremely healthy man, who at 74 could work circles around lots of men. His only ailment was arthritis, which he controlled the best he could. He was the best husband, dad and grandpa anyone could ask for.

He would go on roller coaster rides with the grandkids if they asked him to, knowing full well he would pay for it the next day with his arthritis. He helped so many people that everyone in our small area was touched by his kindness and generosity.

He became ill mid-September so I asked for a COVID-19 test. He tested positive. I also tested positive after a few days.

I experienced extreme tiredness, fever and headache. Ralph was a bit worse. He was really extremely tired and just felt miserable. One day he slept 22 hours. I would make him get up and sit up but he would be right back asleep. Even through all of that we all felt he would be OK.

As the week progressed and the weekend came, he was holding his own until Saturday. We did have a pulse oximeter of my niece’s that we borrowed and thank God my family insisted we use it. By Saturday afternoon, his oxygen plummeted to 77 (from 100). I told him we were going to the hospital. When I got him there, of course, I had to leave but I was relieved that he was there as I knew his battle was not going to be as easy as we thought but he was in the right place.

I will make a long story short, but first I must say that Ralph received the most excellent care possible. He became friends with all of the nurses and doctors, housekeepers and food service folks. Catherine McAuley would be so proud. Dr. David Tannehill, Dr. William Galli, Dr. Ashok Palagiri are walking saints in our book.

Their knowledge, compassion and true meaning of doing what is best for the patient is outstanding. All of the nurses were exceptional as well. They worried about Ralph as much as we did. But when I say those people were tireless and worked like lumberjacks for each and every patient that was there, that is still an understatement.

Ralph’s progression of this virus was a definite roller coaster. We thought we lost him three times, but he would always rally. But then the last week it was becoming pretty evident his journey was just becoming too hard for his body. By the time he passed away, his body was ravaged by the virus.

He was on a ventilator, had 16 liters of fluid in his body, his kidneys were failing, his left leg below the knee had an occluded artery, which was a part of COVID-19. If he would have lived, his leg would have been amputated. His heart was taking the brunt of it as well. He ended up with atrial fibrillation and ended up being cardioverted twice to get his heart back in rhythm.

He passed away on Sept. 11, 2020.

That day we lost my husband of 49 years and 11 months, the best dad to our kids, Chuck and Tricia, and the absolute best grandpa to our four grandkids, Maddie, Beth, Meredith and Andrew.

Please wear a mask in memory of Ralph. That’s all I’m asking. If this virus can take Ralph, it can take down anyone.

Please wear a mask and give all of the health care workers a break. No one knows how exhausted these folks are becoming. Their job is exhausting and until you see firsthand you have no idea what they go through 24/7. You can see the exhaustion, but you would never know it as each and every patient is their only priority at the time. Please help them get back to a normal “day at the office.” So far no day has been normal for them.

Please wear a mask for me and my family as I have experienced this virus firsthand and I have seen what it can do. The endless tears being shed for a man who left way too soon. The look of shock still on our faces that he is really gone and for our hearts that are truly broken and will never be repaired.

Please wear a mask, if not for yourself, then for your mom and dad, your grandparents, and aunts and uncles.

Jayne Struckhoff

Augusta