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When Katie Coelho, 33, rushed to hospital in Danbury, Connecticut on Wednesday shortly before 3 a.m., it was too late.
Her husband, Jon, who had spent the last month there receiving treatment for the coronavirus, had just died of cardiac arrest caused by the disease.
He was only 32 years old.
Distraught and destitute, she gathered her late husband’s belongings and opened her phone, wishing to keep as many photos of him and their two children as possible.
But what she found when she turned it on stopped her dead.
He had left her a note.
“I love you with all my heart and you have given me the best life I could have asked for,” Jon wrote. “I am so lucky it makes me so proud to be your husband and the father of Braedyn and Penny.”
“Katie, you are the most beautiful, caring and caring person I have ever met,” the note continues. “You are truly one of a kind … make sure you live life happily and that same passion that made me fall in love with you. Seeing you being the best mom for kids is the best thing I have. have never lived.
Katie was stunned to find the note, which she thinks Jon must have written weeks earlier before her first intubation, she told BuzzFeed News on the day she died.
“Even though he had been fighting for his life for a month, I know until the last second he wanted to make sure the kids and I were okay,” she said. “He knew he had to tell me something because I haven’t been able to speak to him for so long.”
Jon and Katie met while they were students at Western Connecticut State University. They started out as close friends, then became boyfriend and girlfriend, and finally, in 2013, became husband and wife. Together they had two children: Braedyn, 2.5 years old, and Penelope, 10 months old.
Katie and Jon have struggled to start a family, she told BuzzFeed News. They had two miscarriages and had IVF. Braedyn was born with severe neurological problems and the parents were told he only had six weeks to live.
Miraculously, he survived. Katie now looks after him full time and Jon takes care of the family working at a nearby courthouse.
Jon’s friend Jacob Wycoff told BuzzFeed News that Jon was a “devoted father” and “a bit of a romantic when it came to Katie.”
“Jon was the sole provider in the family, so he worked really hard to make sure Katie didn’t have to leave the house to take care of making money,” Wycoff said. “But when it was his time with the kids, he really, really enjoyed it.”
Wycoff went to college with Jon and Katie, and he and Jon were in the same fraternity. They have remained close friends over the years, attended each other’s weddings, and had children around the same time.
More than anything, Wycoff said he feels the most sadness for Jon’s children.
“They’re not going to grow up to know how amazing their dad was,” Wycoff said. “And that’s really sad for me, because he’s – was – an amazing guy.”
Because Braedyn is considered to be at high risk for the coronavirus, the whole family had been extremely careful about the quarantine. Katie and the two children stayed at home, but Jon, who was seen as an essential worker, still had to go to work.
“My husband was wearing gloves, masks, he washed his hands,” Katie said. “He was so super vigilant because he was so afraid of what would happen to our son if he caught him.”
But on March 24, he found out he had been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Jon wasn’t feeling very sick – just fatigue, a headache and no sense of smell – but he tested and came back positive, so he quarantined himself in a separate part of the house.
“Within 24 hours he started to cough, and with the coughing fits, he wouldn’t be able to catch his breath in between,” Katie said. “The doctor told him to go to the hospital because he would probably need nebulized treatment.”
For almost a week, doctors tried to treat him with medication, but he was still struggling and had to be intubated.
“I don’t know why I put my phone on vibrate that night, but I did,” Katie said. “And I slept during a 4am phone call from him that said his breathing got a little weird during the night, so they said they were going to have to let his body rest for him. could come home with me and the kids, and that he loved us.
Even after Jon was put on a ventilator, doctors expected him to make a full recovery, Katie said. But things quickly escalated.
“They tried to wake him up on the seventh day, and he was breathing a lot, a lot, way too hard,” she said. “They thought he was having a panic attack, so they put me FaceTimed, and he just said, ‘I love you and I’m sorry,’ and then they had to reintubate him.”
After that, his kidneys started to fail and he had a high fever for days. Jon must have been sedated because he was waking up delusional and panicking and trying to tear off his ventilator tubes, she said.
“He became particularly agitated after talking to us, as he was trying to speak on the ventilator, and it would cause too much stress and his breathing would become unregulated,” she said.
But over the course of a few weeks, Jon showed signs of improvement. Doctors gradually started weaning him off the sedatives and started testing to see how he would cope on the ventilator.
“They judged him all day [Tuesday], and he did a really good job, ”she said. “He was getting nervous, but the nurses were able to calm him down and he was responsive. “
She spoke to a doctor that evening around 9 p.m. and hung up hopefully, she said.
“The doctor I spoke to said, ‘We’re going to be able to wake your husband up in two days,” she said. “And they started talking to me about recovery.”
Hours later, however, Jon went into cardiac arrest and died.
Katie said she and the doctors still aren’t sure how or why this happened. Doctors removed Jon from the ventilator on Tuesday night, saying he was awake and responsive and the tubes were making him panic again, but he looked pretty good a few hours before he died.
“My son has just received his adaptive communication device [Tuesday] night, and I sent [Jon] a video of our son saying, ‘Daddy, you are my best friend,’ ”Katie said. “They showed it to him, and out of nowhere his heart started to panic.”
Doctors called Katie, who rushed to the hospital. By the time she arrived less than an hour later, he was gone.
Katie finds it hard to believe that her husband will never come back alive from the hospital. He was young and in good health. He had survived episodes of cancer at the age of 8 and 16, but since he had been in remission for so long, his doctor said it would not lead to complications.
“They kept telling me he would get there because he was a healthy 32-year-old man with no pre-existing health issues,” Katie said.
A GoFundMe was organized to support the family.
In the note he left her, Jon wrote special messages to his two children.
“Leave Braedyn [know] he’s my best friend and I’m proud to be his father and for all the amazing things he has done and continues to do, ”wrote Jon. “Let Penelope know that she is a princess and that she can have whatever she wants in life.”
He also encouraged Katie to find love again.
“I am so lucky,” he wrote. “Don’t hold back, and if you do meet someone, know that if they love you and the children, I love that for you. Always be happy no matter what! “
He had also taken the time to write down the passwords to access important information, such as their mortgage, Katie said.
“He made you feel so loved,” she said. “I never doubted how much he loved me and the kids.”
Finding her letter looks a bit like a double-edged sword, Katie said.
“I’m so grateful that I found the note, but the other part of me is so sad,” she said. “Because I know how scared he was and where his mind must be to think he had to write something like that.”
“Right now, I feel like a part of me is dead,” she added. “He’s been my best friend for 13 years and we’ve been married for eight years, and he was the only person who understood our life with a child with special needs.”
What hurts the most, Katie said, is knowing that her two children will have to grow up without their father – and that their father will never see them grow up.
“My children will not remember their father – it will be me who will make sure that they remember their father and know their father,” she said. “So I have this note to say, ‘Your father was really sick and was fighting for his life, but he wanted you to know how much he loved you. “
“He loved his children so much and I know he didn’t want to leave them,” she said. “It’s so sad that they’re both going to miss each other. It is not fair.”