Stories: Who We Have Lost

John and Me

Story aboutJohn 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.

My Husband, John Haponik

Story aboutJohn Haponik (2 of 2)

I caught Covid at work. Before I knew I had it, I had given it to my son, Michael and my husband, John. My positive test was on the Monday after Christmas. Michael and I recovered. By the following Monday, John was in London at St. Josephs Hospital. His doctors said he was there in plenty of time. He was on ‘room’ air for a week, then moved to a different floor where he could have ‘high’ air. They did the drug treatment and the antibodies and at first expected him to be home by Saturday. I wasn’t allowed to stay with him, of course, but had his phone and we texted back and forth.

This is all too hard to write. At the end of his second week, he was placed on a c-pap. His lungs had filled with sepsis and blood clots. They had to turn the pressure up enough to force the oxygen into his struggling lungs. He developed a pneumothorax- a hole in his lung- from the pressure. He said it felt like a panic attack and it seemed like the whole floor of nurses dashed in to take care of him. That was the day he texted our daughter Stacy, “It is mostly boring here, but sometimes very exciting.” After that he was placed on a ventilator. Before they sedated him, he wrote out, “Darlene, I love you. JPH” on a sheet of paper the nurse gave him. I had it framed so he can tell me he loves me every day.

You can only stay so long on a ventilator before it starts working against you. He couldn’t get a tracheotomy because of the tube coming out of his lung; he was too medically fragile for surgery. His doctor explained that no surgeon would agree to surgery if the patient would die on the table, as they were certain John would.
His last week in ICU they finally let Michael and me visit for a while. I realize what a blessing this was… most people did not get the chance to sit with their loved ones since Covid. I thank the doctors and nurses at St. Joseph for that privilege. John was heavily sedated and didn’t know we were there. I wanted to climb in bed with him and hold him, but had to settle for hugging him around all his tubes. A priest gave him last rites for the Catholic Church on our 37th wedding anniversary. I refused to take him off the ventilator on that day, but came back to the hospital on the next. His nurse told me that all the nurses who had taken care of him were crying and upset that they hadn’t been able to save him. I said, “he must have been a good patient” … and she said, “That’s not it. We are all upset because he loves you so much and was so worried about you.”

I left the room while they disconnected the tubes and equipment. When I came back, I held his hand hugged him while he took his last breaths. He just stopped breathing. No struggle. Just peaceful rest. His heart kept beating, his pacemaker doing its duty even after his lungs could not. His nurse used a magnet to quiet the device… and my John was gone.

My Mother, My Angel

Story aboutWilma Kelley

My mom passed away on November 25th, 2020 due to COVID-19. She left me and my dad and her grandkids and great grandkids suddenly. She was my best friend and the best mother anybody could ask for. And I thank God every day for the life lessons she taught me as a child. Now she is my guardian angel and watches over me and my dad, her husband of 58 years. They had the kind of love that every little girl dreams of. Mom took care of daddy and now she has placed him in my hands. I only hope I can make her proud. Mom passed with a lot of complications from COVID-19 and because of that, nobody was allowed to see her. That’s what really hurts is the fact that she died alone and scared. We didn’t get to have the funeral or memorial service the way she would have liked…(up to 25 people). She knew she was loved dearly by everyone that had any contact with her. And my dad and myself miss her so bad. I love you Momma!

My husband, Earl, died during the COVID19 PANDEMIC on June 4, 2020 at the hospital. (he did not have the covid virus) We got the call to come to the hospital but the nurse met us at the door and told us he was gone. The days that followed where sad and long. So much to do and no one to come home to. The following is a post our son,Micah, posted on fb when he returned to our home the morning his Papa passed.: Micah Wyatt June 5, 2020 at 4:22 PM · Shared with Public – I have wrestled with the idea of sharing this publicly cause my father was a private man, and the current viral context makes a difficult situation even more problematic- and the difficulties only increase as numbers grow. Yet, I didn’t want to deprive anyone of the opportunity to honor my father and grieve alongside those who also loved him. So, it is with a heavy heart made strong by the courage and strength my father modeled that I must inform the world my Donald Earl, known as, “Whitecloud” to those who knew him in youth due to his bright blonde hair, went to sleep last night and became one with the thunder. Dad had suffered in ways few could ever imagined because he never burdened others with his problems of body and spirit. So, while it is sad he is no longer here there is also comfort, cause he is released from the pains of his flesh. My father was my first friend and always my best. Funny, kind, and generous to a flaw, he was also brave, powerful, and no one to trifle with or disrespect. The calm and quite clouds would part, shot guns would rise, and the danger or disrespect would be dealt with. Yet, he was never unreasonable or unfair with his anger the entire time I knew him. Further, dad could flat kick your ass at Rook. Even after everyone at the table had six packs each he could still recall exactly what card had played and who played it. My father was a warrior, both literally and metaphorically. He served our country during the Vietnam era. He was an artillery gunner, and a damn good one. His gunnery squad were taken to West Point Military Academy to train the artillery infantry there. Dad supposedly never saw action, but I also know he had a top secret clearance at one point so what he really did remains an unknown. He shared what he was comfortable with, and the rest I never asked about. There is no doubt this world has had its level of kindness and generosity reduced today, but with an indomitable will and keen mind I will strive to double my efforts to help that level to not fall as far as it might so as to honor my father’s legacy. In his last years papa spent much of his time at his desk watching multitudes of birds come to the feeder hanging from the window before which he was seated. As I had done with grandma and grandpa Wyatt as a child, dad would quietly identify and witness various feathered friends as they ate, sang, and scuffled amongst each other. When I arrived home from the hospital after seeing my father off on one of his final journeys it was about 5:45am. As I got out of the car songs from hundreds of birds filled the air, and I wondered with a transcendent smile, “How many of these did papa feed?” Every morning the numerous birds on our mountain greet the sun with their voices. I do not know the winged choirs were for my father, but I also do not know they were not. love Micah
It will soon be a year since we lost him. My heart is still broken, the tears still fall. The hill will never be same without him. Love Always and Forever, Rosemary

My Dad, my hero

Story aboutJoseph Vize

My Dad, who loved to golf, loved KY basketball, often went deer “hunting” but never took his gun, retired from Ford Motor Company, the best father, husband and Grandfather anyone could ask for. You need something? Take his or he would get it. You need help with something? Give him and time and you paid with a hot breakfast. He was the epitome of what a Dad truly was. When I moved to Texas, with two children, to meet my husband for his job change, he drove the 25 hours with me, moved me in and would only fly back to KY when my husband was there & he knew we were safe and sound. Hardest worker yet you could often find him “napping” while watching Gunsmoke Most days. “Perks of retirement” he would say.

Covid took him from us. He first was sick November 24, 2020. Only gastrointestinal issues, we suspected Covid but he “wasn’t that sick”. Went to the ER, sent home with Immodium. 4 days later, I had to call 911 as his O2 was below 70. Straight to Jewish hospital, he tried and fought for a week to stay off the vent. He was so scared and alone, I will never be able to thank the nurses who were there we we couldn’t be.

December 10, he was placed on the vent. It never helped. He went downhill fast and the early morning of December 18, his deceased mothers 95 birthday, we watched via a zoom call as his machines were turned off, the vent stopped and the moment he took his last breath. Thank God for the nurse who held his hand. My nieces were allowed to be there as they both are nurses in Louisville. They gently spoke to him as he transitioned to heaven. No more pain, struggle or Earthly sorrow. It has been 147 days. I miss him so much but take comfort in knowing I will see him again.

Dad, we can never tell you how much you are loved and missed. Until we meet again!

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