AKRON, Ohio – The day Frank Malinowski was admitted to the hospital for treatment of COVID-19, his 36-year-old son, Frank “Keith” Malinowski, began to write.
Over three weeks in October and November, the virus became a plague on the Malinowski family. It delivered “cheap shots.” It took hostages. And it left them with pain and grief.
For Keith Malinowski, an avid deer hunter from Canal Fulton, Ohio, who works in railroad construction, his emails were his way of coping in a time of high stress. But they also had a specific purpose: to update family members, most of whom live out-of-state, about his immediate family, including his father, a 59-year-old train engineer and Pittsburgh Steelers fan; his mother, Jody, 58; and his 34-year-old sister, Jamie, who lived together in Doylestown. He also writes about his wife, Brandy, a nursing home worker, and his 15-year-old stepdaughter, Maddy.
The Malinowski family at the wedding of Frank “Keith” Malinowski, second from right, including his father Frank, on right, sister Jamie, and mother Jody.
The family has granted the Akron Beacon Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, permission to print those emails, which have been lightly edited for clarity and length, in the hopes they can convince others to take the virus seriously as cases and hospitalizations continue to surge.
They show, in real time, the reality of the virus that has caused more than 290,000 deaths in the United States, yet still has its skeptics and naysayers.
They also show a family clinging to joy, wherever they can find it.
Oct. 15, 4:12 p.m.: ‘Dad was tested for COVID yesterday evening’
Dad was tested for COVID yesterday evening at Barberton Hospital after being admitted for symptoms he thought were related to other preexisting health conditions. Unfortunately, each symptom he exhibited directly correlated with COVID. While in good spirits, he called me and confirmed that he indeed tested positive. Our conversation was short and sweet as he had to contact his employer, I had to shut down my operation and Brandy hers at the nursing facility.
Dad and I spent this past Sunday hunting together on an unseasonably warm day here in Ohio. Although we don’t sit side by side while hunting, we rode together, walked together and enjoyed a nice afternoon lunch. During our lunch, I noticed he was developing a slight cough. After progressively getting worse throughout Monday and Tuesday he finally went to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
Currently, Dad is feeling “ok” and receiving Remdesivir. He mentioned being eligible for this medicine due to his preexisting conditions and not all symptomatic COVID patients receive this medication. As of this afternoon, he will be admitted for at least 5 days while seeking treatment.
Brandy and I immediately scheduled COVID tests at the local CVS and were completed at 11:30 this morning. Brandy took great delight in swabbing my nose in the romantic setting of a CVS drive through on our wedding anniversary. Yes, it’s been four years! We should receive the results in the next 2-3 days. Maddy was already at school as this all unfolded and hasn’t been tested at this point.
Thanks for all your prayers and I will do my best to keep everyone updated.
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Oct. 18, 8:54 a.m.: ‘He sounded like he was running a marathon’
Dad’s COVID battle continued to decline yesterday as he was battling lowering oxygen levels. I talked to him personally around noon and he was maintaining his oxygen level around 88%. He was struggling to breathe but didn’t seem too concerned. Around 4 p.m., he called and stated they were moving him to ICU as a precaution because his levels were continuing to decline. He sounded like he was running a marathon. Around 6 p.m., mom received a call from the ICU doctor and was told his oxygen level dropped to 70% and was being closely monitored with a ventilator on standby.
The doctor stated he is in “very critical condition and has a long road ahead of him.” Once put on the vent, he’s on it for 5-10 days as his lungs begin (not try–happy thoughts) to heal.
Brandy and I both received our COVID test results and tested NEGATIVE. However, I’m on a mandated quarantine due to direct contact exposure with Dad, and Brandy is out of work for 2 weeks due to extreme caution with her nursing home facility. In accordance to Ohio’s guidelines for school, Maddy is able to return to school due to no direct contact exposure with a known positive COVID case, however, we are evaluating our personal preference.
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Oct. 18, 10:49 a.m.: Treatments ‘improving his condition’
Mom received a promising call from Dad this morning. He is on a CPAP machine receiving breathing treatments and this is improving his condition. Also, he received donor plasma with COVID antibodies to help fight the virus. So far, no further discussion on the ventilator. At the end of the conversation he let a strong and pronounced GO STEELERS! For those of you who don’t know, the Steelers play the Browns today in a big rivalry game.
Oct. 19, 7:43 a.m.: ‘2020 is going to be a grind to the end’
Yesterday started out better than expected after both Mom and I had a chance to talk to Dad; however, his no-nonsense, straight-shooter doctor called and fully explained his condition in great detail to me. I was more than appreciative of the 20-plus minutes he took to explain everything in a tactful manner. Amongst the doctor’s COVID patients he has seen since the pandemic started, Dad’s condition is “moderately severe leaning towards more severe.” However, the good news is that the medical field has learned a great deal since the beginning and Dad’s chances of survival are much better than earlier severely sick patients. The doctor mentioned that if Dad were this sick from COVID 6 months ago he would be gone by now.
At 5:06, the call came. Dr. (Matt) Chandler stated although Dad was fighting to maintain his oxygen levels where needed, they didn’t have a choice but to place him on the vent because he would eventually become too fatigued.
Currently, Dad is sedated and resting peacefully on a ventilator. They will gently bring him out of sedation every morning to examine his eyes and cognitive abilities to be certain he is doing well.
Yes, this is all tough news but Dad is a fighter! Undoubtedly, it will be a long road home but through Dad’s hard work and your thoughts and prayers he can beat this! We can beat this!
2020 is going to be a grind to the end.
Oct. 20, 10:35 a.m.: ‘Mom tested POSITIVE’
Being stubborn and unable to wait around for an overnight update, I contacted the ICU this morning and spoke directly with Dad’s nurse, Nurse Abby. She freaked a little when I stated I was Frank Malinowski “her patient” rather than Frank “Keith” Malinowski, his son. Oops, my bad. Overnight, they had to sedate him more heavily and provide him with more oxygen because he is trying to fight the vent and breathe on his own. A good sign, however, the purpose for being on the vent is to rest, not fight. Again, Dad’s a fighter!!
In an unfortunate turn of events but expected, Mom tested POSITIVE for COVID while Jamie has, so far, tested NEGATIVE. After some frantic afternoon phone calls, Jamie and I have a plan in place in case Mom’s condition deteriorates. Thus far, mom is exhibiting a cough but nothing serious. I spoke with her this morning and she is feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and upset; all expected considering the circumstances.
Brandy has been more than helpful with providing Mom and Jamie with meals, groceries, medicine, disinfectant wipes and nursing advice as they battle through this. I will forever be indebted to her for her patience and gracefulness.
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Oct. 21, 12:47 p.m.: Mom’s ‘COVID symptoms continued to get worse’
Dad is still heavily sedated, positioned on his stomach (COVID research has shown this helps) and hooked to the ventilator. The medical staff also administered a paralytic to provide temporary paralysis to allow him to rest. The paralytic changes their approach to waking him up daily to check his cognitive ability. As I understand it, they could still bring him out of sedation to check his well-being but it’s unfair for the patient to experience paralysis. Thus, they won’t be waking him.
Last night was rough for Mom as her COVID symptoms continued to get worse. Finally, after much back and forth discussion, it was decided Mom should go to the hospital for evaluation. Through lung imagery and blood work, the doctor determined she wasn’t severe enough to be admitted. He sent her home with some anti-nausea medication and advice on how to cope with the symptoms.
Many have asked the million-dollar question: Where did he come in contact with the virus? Nobody knows but please understand since the onset of the pandemic Dad has taken every CDC precaution very seriously to avoid this deadly virus. He was strictly warned by his doctor this wasn’t anything he wanted to come in contact with. In fact, he was off work for weeks as he avoided exposure. Dad avoided large crowds, practiced social distancing, always wore a mask and washed his hands routinely.
It’s hard to accept the fact that even with all these precautions he still came into contact with the virus. It just doesn’t seem fair. In my Dad’s words, during his last conversation with his brother Ed, “Don’t f*** with this virus. It’s real–Not a hoax.” Please spread this message to other family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or random strangers. It could save someone like Dad.
Oct. 22, 11:41 a.m.: ‘Dad’s vitals are good.’ Mom ‘sounded strong’
Today’s nurse, Nurse Amy, stated Dad’s vitals are good, he is positioned on his belly and his health is continuing to trend in the right direction.
After a nice conversation with Mom this morning, we agreed last night was the best night’s sleep any of us have had since Dad was admitted. She sounded strong and hopeful as she repeated, “I’m kicking COVID’s butt!” Dad is doing the same! My heart certainly goes out to all those families who are experiencing loss and unable to comfort their loved ones. So many lives are being lost in such an unfair manner.
Oct. 23, 11:25 a.m.: Mom and Dad’s health ‘in the right direction,’ Jamie has a test scheduled
Dad has Nurse Amy again today and his health continues to head in the right direction. I’m getting much better at my morning interrogations and the nurse seemed very prepared for the questions I had to ask. They will continue the daily breathing exercises and look forward to him lasting a little longer each time. He doesn’t have a fever, his vitals are good and he is showing no other signs of infection.
Mom continues to show signs of improvement and Jamie has a COVID test scheduled for this afternoon. She is exhibiting a cough and fatigue but doesn’t sound too serious at this point. It’s a beautiful day here in Ohio and if the weather holds up, I plan on putting Maddy to work in Mom and Dad’s yard this afternoon.
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Oct. 25, 8:27 a.m.: ‘A few minor setbacks’
Apparently, Friday night Dad became agitated and tried pulling the vent out. This kind of created a few minor setbacks. They had to increase his sedation to keep him more unconscious and they decided not to conduct a breathing trial as a result. Saturday was spent strictly resting.
Mom feels weak but continues to keep a positive attitude. She is trying to eat enough to barely keep “a bird” alive. Jamie remains weak and patiently waiting for her second COVID test results.
Friday evening, Brandy helped me rake leaves, clean the bird bath and mow at Mom and Dad’s. We had the yard looking beautiful just in time for dark. At which point a cold front moved in with tornadic-force winds. Ever feel like you just can’t win?
I spent Saturday hunting and harvested the most unique buck of my life. It was a bittersweet moment and I could sense Dad’s enthusiasm the entire time.
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Oct. 26, 12:43 p.m.: ‘Decision will be made day by day’
I was able to email the nurse a picture of my deer and asked her to tack it up on Dad’s wall or set it bedside to look at once he is able. Surely it will shift his focus and lift his spirits; not so sure about his nurse’s. I’m certain he will call for “deer talk” once he is in better condition.
Frank “Keith” Malinowski shows the buck he hunted in October while his dad was in the hospital fighting COVID-19. Malinowski was able to have the nurses print this photo to hang in his father’s room in intensive care to lift his spirits.
A new ICU doctor is on rotation this week and come to find out is the brother of Dr. Chandler with whom I spoke to last Sunday as they were prepping Dad for the vent. Each doctor sounds identical and both seem to have the same positive attitudes towards patients and their families. The BIG FOCUS this week is to wean Dad off the sedation and vent. They want to be as certain as possible before they take this next big step. This decision will be made day by day.
Mom is continuing to recover from her bout with COVID and Jamie confirmed, this morning, what we all suspected. She tested POSITIVE for COVID and is feeling terrible. They are both hunkering down and battling it out.
Brandy and I are both nearing the end of our quarantine and tested again this morning to be sure we each remain negative before returning back to work later this week. We aren’t suffering from any symptoms and should have our results Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
Oct. 27, 11:32 a.m.: ‘Mom and Jamie are totally fatigued’
Dad is fighting a bacterial infection from the vent tube, which is a common occurrence for those on a ventilator for prolonged periods of time. They anticipated this and are treating it with antibiotics.
Dad remains the only patient currently on a vent in the ICU but the floor is filling up quickly with COVID patients who may be in need of vents soon. They assured me there are plenty of vents – at the moment.
Mom and Jamie are totally fatigued, exhausted and have no appetite. I monitor them a few times a day by calling and making sure their symptoms aren’t becoming any more severe. It hurts to call because they are typically resting but it must be done.
Oct. 28, 12:14 p.m.: Dad’s recovery as ‘unpredictable’ as the illness
As they planned, Dad was taken off the vent shortly before 9 this morning and is responding well to the oxygen being provided through the nasal cannula. They really want to take things slow. As the nurse put it, “Your dad just survived life support for 10 days.” I guess he isn’t quite ready for deer hunting.
Once taken off the vent, Nurse Heather stated Dad tried talking in a very faint whisper. She leaned her ear to his mouth and could hear him asking how Mom was doing. I asked her to assure him that Mom and Jamie are staying strong and look forward to speaking with him when ready. It could be a few hours or days before Dad is well enough to have a conversation. As unpredictable as the virus is, so is the recovery.
As mentioned, the first step in the recovery process will be the speech/swallow evaluation. This will determine what kind of diet and speech therapy he will need after not talking or eating for 10 days. The next step will be a physical and occupational therapy assessment to determine what level of therapy is needed to regain motor skills.
Dad has gained quite the following over the past few weeks. So much so, I’m sure he will be embarrassed. Dad has always lived his life avoiding attention, being respectful, working hard and being there. This quiet unassuming man, who at all costs avoids the spotlight, means so much more to us than I think he ever realized. Let’s continue to show him!
Oct. 29, 9:39 p.m.: ‘Today started with smiles then ended with tears’
Today started with smiles then ended with tears.
Dad is doing remarkably well as he recovers and I spoke to him for about 20 seconds today. However, we need to focus our attention on another battle that lies ahead.
While I was at work early this afternoon, Mom called and said Jamie wasn’t doing well and may need to go to the doctor. Jamie wasn’t responding to Mom’s voice or touch. After I asked Mom to violently shake her and put the phone to Jamie’s face so I could talk to her, we still couldn’t elicit a response. I then asked Mom to hold Jamie’s hand and ask her to squeeze – nothing. The rest was a blur. I frantically told Mom to call 9-1-1 and I would be at the house in 10 minutes. I arrived just in time to assist the paramedics with carrying Jamie out of the house and into the ambulance while asking if she had a pulse. They confirmed she had a pulse and was breathing but had to move. I yelled to Mom I would update her as I peeled out behind the squad.
Jamie was rushed to the same hospital as Dad and immediately put on a ventilator. Her oxygen was down to 72% and had Mom not checked on Jamie when she did, it’s doubtful she would had made it through the night. Mom is a HERO! Moments ago, I spoke with Dr. (Mike) Chandler, who I have become all too familiar with. Although I trust his care, the news isn’t any easier to swallow. Jamie is currently in the ICU, sedated and on vent. They are pushing Remdesivir, COVID antibody plasma, steroids and blood thinner to begin her treatments.
Unfortunately, Jamie is a little behind where Dad was when he was admitted to the ICU. Remember, he was admitted into the hospital for observation for a few days before he was transferred to the ICU. They were planning on his decline. They are reacting to Jamie’s.
Dr. Chandler will update me through the night as her condition changes. She is critical but stable.
I have so much more to say but I’m exhausted and numb.
Please keep the thoughts and prayers coming.
Oct. 30, 9:08 p.m.: Jamie ‘sacrificed her health’ to help Mom
“Your dad is winning the horse race but your sister is gaining ground.” – Dr. Chandler
Dr. Chandler called this morning and gave me an update on both Dad and Jamie. As we know, Jamie was very critical while being admitted to the ICU but after being stabilized her vitals were surprisingly good. Youthfulness is on her side.
Please understand Jamie’s rapidly deteriorating condition was nobody’s fault. Jamie selflessly sacrificed her health and well-being by helping Mom during her most severe COVID symptoms and Mom was there for Jamie. They both rolled up their sleeves, dug in and planned to grind this virus out until the end. Jamie was experiencing fatigue, weakness, headaches, body aches and loss of appetite but never exhibited any indication of respiratory failure. While Jamie slept throughout the day, with Mom resting in the neighboring room, the virus crept into her lungs and began to silently kill her. If not for Mom’s motherly instinct, we likely would have lost Jamie in her sleep overnight. This is the virus; this is how it works and this is how it kills!
Dad has called Mom on a few occasions today and has a strong steady voice. Especially while proclaiming his displeasure for JELL-O. Dad spends his day watching tv while not knowing what time of day it is because his room doesn’t have a window. He is receiving a steady diet of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes to begin replacing the 45 lbs. he lost. All is well.
Nov. 1, 9:02 a.m.: ‘Last man standing’
“Are you experiencing any fever or COVID symptoms? After all, you seem to be the last man standing.” – Dr. Chandler
Jamie is still sedated and paralyzed but they are hopeful they will be able to wean her off the vent Sunday/Monday. Her vitals, kidney function and blood pressure are all good! She is still critical but Dr. Chandler has a good track record and Jamie continues to fight towards good health.
Dad called me on his cell phone and we made small talk about deer hunting and his condition. He said it was everything two nurses and himself could do to get him up out of bed and sitting in a chair. He seemed excited to be in a chair but it was also a terrible struggle to maintain his posture and hold the phone to his ear. He gave me instructions to get working on a rehab center so he can get started. However, it’s not so simple. For starters, he is still considered “COVID positive” so that limits the centers willing to accept him. Also, his condition from good to bad or bad to good could change so sudden that this also plays a pivotal role in the type of facility acceptable for his care.
Obviously, yesterday was Halloween and Maddy’s favorite holiday. She and Brandy spent the morning gathering Halloween candy from Sam’s Club. While there, they also picked up food for a family in Canal Fulton who is beginning their COVID battle and dropped it off. Fortunately, only the mom has mild symptoms, at the moment, but the entire family (husband and few kids) are quarantined and put out a plea for help.
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After returning home, Maddy hustled into her Plague Doctor costume and we were off to Doylestown for trick-or-treat from 2-3:30. I must assure you that Maddy was the same character last Halloween and this was by chance – not calculation and design. We parked in Mom and Dad’s driveway and sat near the end with the candy bowl on a table about 10 feet away where we could keep our social distancing. Mom had enough energy and took great delight at standing near the front door to watch the trick-or-treaters come and go. Too bad the trick-or-treaters didn’t appreciate our true Halloween display. Mom in the house quarantined, while the Plague Doctor vigilantly sat at the end of the driveway. I can’t make this stuff up!
Nov. 2, 8:17 p.m.: Jamie’s condition ‘continued to progress as expected’
Jamie had Nurse Caleb on Sunday and her condition continued to progress as expected. They flipped her onto her back Sunday evening into Monday and she maintained her oxygen levels. They gave her a dose of Tylenol to aid in reducing her 103-degree temp and they are also scheduling a breathing exercise Tuesday morning. Prayers that she does well and gets another step closer to being freed from the ventilator!
Dad is progressing remarkably well! So well that Sunday evening Dad was moved from the ICU to a general observation room. The ICU nurses hated to see him go because they finally had an opportunity to see who the man Dad is rather than the man he was on the vent. Nurse Heather seemed especially excited to see Dad continuing on from the first night she cared for him on the vent. Her voice seemed to indicate maybe he was far worse off than we feared those first few days.
Mom packed Dad a bag with clothes for his inpatient rehab but Brandy is on the hunt for something that may fit more appropriately after learning he has lost so much weight. I’m slipping in some deer pictures and hunting magazines. Although, Dad has been increasingly asked why his sole possession is a dead deer picture and not one of family. I promise I’m trying – I really am!!
I’m looking forward to my conference call tomorrow morning and finding out how well Jamie did during her breathing exercise. The medical staff sounds optimistic but we must never let our guard down to this terrible unforgiving virus.
Nov. 3, 8:17 p.m.: ‘What a relief!’ – Hopes for good news
“Oh, it’s you again. Let me get the nurse.” – ICU desk operator
After driving to Monaca, PA., re-railing a derailed hazardous materials rail car and participating in a practice emergency plant evacuation drill, I was able to call the ICU at 10:22. Their tone seemed to be more concerned for my late call than Jamie’s condition. I understood why once Nurse Amy informed me that Jamie was off the ventilator, following commands, talking and looking great! What a relief! She is currently on high flow oxygen but they will begin to wean her off that as the day/week progresses.
As I traveled back home on the PA turnpike, I pulled off into a service plaza and began making frantic phone calls to Mom, Dad’s nurse, doctor, case manager and social worker. I needed to find out soon how his overall condition was for the day and if he could handle the news of Jamie’s condition. After all, if Jamie was well enough to be talking to the nurse, I was afraid she may call Dad from her ICU room. What a mess that would be! After many calls and thoughtful consideration, Mom and I decided it was time I tell Dad. Dad took the news much better than I expected and conceded that he was worried so much about his situation that worrying about Jamie wouldn’t have helped matters. I’m so glad we no longer have to hide Jamie’s condition.
Dad may get moved into Select Specialty in Canton tomorrow. I dropped a bag off at the hospital this evening and called him from the parking lot to let him know a “small duffle bag” was on the way via wheelchair to his room. I feel bad for the poor soul who has to lug that boat anchor around! It contained more comfortable clothes, slippers, hygiene items, newspapers, hunting magazines, snacks and family pictures to raise his spirits. While notifying Dad of his bag arrival, he mentioned talking briefly with Jamie through the hospital phone.
Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to Dad being transferred to the rehab facility and hearing Jamie’s voice. We still have a long road ahead but good news continues to come our way.
Nov. 4, 7:47 p.m.: ‘Only time will tell but she is progressing well’
Jamie had Nurse Amy again today and is awake and alert. Now, it’s back to the waiting game that we have become all too familiar with. Each individual’s response to the virus and ventilator treatment is unique. Only time will tell but she is progressing well.
Dad is becoming restless in his room. He has read through the entire email thread and most of the local newspapers we provided him in his duffel bag. He was told this morning he was going to get transferred into a rehab facility but the call to pack it up never came. Nevertheless, he did his own rehab throughout his small room by doing arm raises, walking in place and reading while sitting up with his head and neck aligned. All exercises he couldn’t do just a few days ago.
Mom is doing well and sounds great! I have to look into whether or not she might be able to visit Dad, once in the rehab facility, after testing positive for COVID. We know Dad is allowed one visitor per day but don’t know what the restrictions are for those visitors who have tested positive within the past few weeks. More homework for another day.
Nov. 5, 8 p.m.: ‘One day at a time’
Shortly after a “follow up” phone call with Dad’s case worker this morning he received a call from Select Specialty stating they were ready to receive him. I’m not sure I had any pull, but… Tadaaa!! He was moved into the facility early this afternoon and has settled into his two-bed room. Fortunately, he is the only one in the room at the moment and will begin his rehab tomorrow morning with a physical therapist. He sounded fantastic and indicated his oxygen was reduced from 4 liters to 2 liters overnight. So low he was afraid it wasn’t working and summoned a nurse to turn it on. After gearing up in her face mask, oxygen tank, gloves, booties and hazmat suit she indicated to him it WAS ON. Perhaps this helped speed up his process for release?
This afternoon, Jamie was moved from the ICU to the fourth floor. The same floor Dad was on. In fact, his nurse stated she would wheel him past her room so he could peek in and say hi but transport wheeled him the other way and off the floor before Dad understood where he was. He didn’t speak up as he was relieved to be finally moving to a rehab facility. Mom spoke to Jamie on a few occasions and she seems to be improving. My morning conference call with her ICU nurse confirmed the same. One day at a time.
Nov. 7, 9:02 a.m.: ‘A great step in our family’s COVID recovery process’
Yesterday was a great step in our family’s COVID recovery process! Of course, I had to be in a tree stand over two hours away when Mom called and said Jamie was ready for release. I drove home, changed, picked Jamie up a set of clothes and a grocery list from Mom, purchased groceries then finally made it to the hospital. The main lobby allowed me up to the 4th floor and I was greeted with celebrity status. Dad must have been a big hit as each nurse who passed by stopped to ask how he was progressing. I was overwhelmed to see faces to the voices I had been receiving updates from for so long. If only I could have made it up to the ICU where lives are being saved.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was startling to see Jamie clutching a bottle of oxygen in her lap as she was pushed in a wheel chair out the front entrance of hospital. I was relieved when she said “Hi Keith” like everything was back to normal and it wasn’t a big deal. True Jamie fashion but I was scared. However, after only a few moments in the car I realized it was my sister Jamie, maybe a little worse for wear but remembering, talking and relieved to be alive. After her life-or-death bout with COVID, I think she was most disappointed in missing her favorite holiday: Halloween. Don’t worry Jamie, I will ask the Plague Doctor, who I suspect will be more than happy to parade you around town next year as a coronavirus survivor.
Nov. 22, 7:29 p.m.: After two weeks, a ‘sucker punch’
I apologize for the two-week hiatus in daily updates but I’m sure you can all understand. It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts and I wasn’t sure I could do this. However, Mom and Dad asked me to send an update on their positive progress. Please bear with me.
On November 8, 2020 at 4:29 p.m., the virus hit our family with the cheapest of cheap shots. A sucker punch, after the whistle blow when we were vulnerable with our backs turned and our guard down.
Brandy, Maddy and I planned a Sunday afternoon of cleaning gutters and raking leaves at Mom, Dad and Jamie’s house. We arrived around 2 that afternoon and peeked in at Jamie resting on the couch. I reminded her the nurses instructed her to keep trying to move when able to begin gaining her strength back. Little did I know those were the last words I would speak to her.
We went back to raking leaves and about an hour later Brandy frantically found me, screaming Jamie was unconscious and in respiratory failure. We both entered the house to calm Mom and try our best to get Jamie oxygen until the paramedics arrived. Numerous volunteer paramedics were there in minutes and came from everywhere to help her. They were in their shorts and t-shirts probably raking their own leaves and enjoying a beautiful 75 degree fall afternoon. They entered the house with just masks and gloves with no other concerns but to help Jamie. They sacrificed their own safety and well-being to help her. True heroes!
After trying to stabilize her they decided it was best they get moving to the hospital with me following. Everything afterwards became a blur. I won’t go into any further detail other than I was able to hold Jamie’s hand until the end and Dad’s rehab center allowed me in after visitation hours to tell him the news in person. Each a blessing.
The grave of Jamie Malinowski in Doylestown, Ohio.
Considering the circumstances, we were able to hold a relatively traditional viewing and burial. Even the weather cooperated. I know Mom and Dad were pleased with how everything was handled and the respect everyone had for each other’s safety. For those of you who couldn’t attend, I have attached some pictures of the picture boards, poem, and 2 framed pictures of Jamie that were in place at the viewing. Please note the pictures were taken in my barn during our small lunch. Next to the commemorative table is a chair dedicated to Jamie that included her Taco Bell cap, favorite Shawn Mendes t-shirt, a ridiculous pink flamingo she loved and pumpkins she was so disappointed in not having the opportunity to carve before Halloween.
A memorial for Jamie Malinowski, who died in November of COVID-19, shows her favorite pink flamingo, the pumpkins she had hoped to carve for Halloween this year and photos of her with her family.
The shock of Jamie’s death is passing and reality is setting in. The feeling of emptiness at Mom and Dad’s house is hard to accept but they are pushing through. Dad’s strength seems to be increasing by the day. First it was a feat to take a shower, then walk to the end of the driveway, then to the end of the road and now it’s a 1-mile loop around the block! Each time a little faster and with less breaks and use of a cane Brandy had me purchase. This evening he was going to try the 1-mile loop with a heavy jacket and hunting boots to better prepare for the upcoming hunting season. Although he is scaling back on his amount of hunting, he still plans to give it a try.
Jamie Malinowski, 34, died Nov. 8 of COVID-19. She is pictured here at her brother’s wedding in 2016. “She kept commenting that day, that’s the most beautiful dress she’s ever had,” Frank “Keith” Malinowski said.
Mom has discomfort in her chest and her strength isn’t coming back as quick as Dad’s. However, she is staying in good spirits by keeping up on the yard/flower beds, organizing things in the house and communicating with family and friends often.
Brandy, Maddy and I are hanging in there. For the time being, Maddy is still in school full-time and I’m back to work as normal. Unfortunately, Brandy’s life is anything but normal. She worked over 75 hours this week, is going to school online full time and is scheduled for surgery on December 4 for torn ligaments in her ankle. Upon returning home from work, she strips in the garage and puts her clothes in a plastic tote, covers in a towel and hobbles to a scalding hot shower. She sprays her car with Lysol and keeps her doors open to let in air out then dumps her clothes in the washer. She has a black and blue ring around her face from the N95 mask she wears 16 hours a day and her ankle is swollen like a grapefruit. She is a true superhero and this is her norm for who knows how long.
‘She was the hero’: Malinowski family grapples with 34-year-old’s death from COVID-19
Frank “Keith” Malinowski, left, visits the grave of his sister, Jamie Malinowski, with parents Frank and Jody Malinowski in Doylestown, Ohio.
Thank You all for the continued thoughts and prayers. Here is my prayer to you:
As many have prayed for my family over the past month, I now pray for yours. I pray you make smart decisions through the holidays as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. I pray you choose the health and safety of your loved ones, yourself or even strangers over large careless gatherings. I’m not trying to push an agenda nor am I a conspiracy theorist. I’m like many of you. I pray you don’t see your loved one on the couch looking like death. I pray you don’t hear them fight to breathe while on oxygen as they tell you they love you and not to worry. I pray you don’t have to answer the doctor when you are asked for your loved one’s code status as they are being placed on a ventilator. I pray you don’t have to see your sister struggle to breathe then hold her hand as her heart stops. This virus is real. If you don’t believe me or want more details please call or better yet stop by my place. I have a big yard and a fridge full of beer. My mom was adamant that I indicate in my sister’s obituary that she died from COVID. She wanted those who read it to know it’s real and killing even the young. I pray you don’t have to talk to an ICU nurse as she holds back tears while disclosing to you the condition of your dad in one room and your sister in the next. Each fighting for their lives. Above all, I pray for the health care workers who are absolute HEROES!! I pray they stay healthy, don’t get burned out and never have to decide who lives and who dies.
The Malinowski Family
Follow reporter Jennifer Pignolet on Twitter @JenPignolet
Frank “Keith” Malinowski visits a gravesite in Doylestown, Ohio.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio family’s battle with COVID-19 illustrates devastating toll