HARWINTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside-down. The national unemployment rate is at levels not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s, many people are unable to access healthcare and other necessary services, and for some, the virus has even cost them their lives.
But amid the upheaval, there is still an abundance of hope. Triumph over adversity is a theme wherever there is suffering, and one family’s battle with COVID-19 demonstrates the power of hope, love and the human spirit.
The Rev. Brett Figlewski, an Episcopal priest at St. Paul’s parish in Bantam and Legal Director of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, recounted the recent journey of his parents with the coronavirus, both of whom contracted the disease in mid-March.
“On Monday, March 16 my mom came home from work early because she was not feeling well,” Brett explained. At first it appeared that his mother, Linda, 76, has contracted a cold. His father, Henry, then 76, also fell ill soon after, and by the following weekend their condition had deteriorated drastically.
“When I retuned home from church on Sunday, March 22, their condition was grim.” After consulting with family members, Brett decided to call an ambulance to take them to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington. Henry was immediately taken into the ICU and Linda followed the next morning. Both were sedated and put on ventilators.
“It was just horrific,” Brett recalled. “Neither my sister or I were allowed inside the hospital to see them. We were calling daily for updates. A couple of weeks into their stay, the doctor told us both of my parents were suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome.” Due to Linda and Henry’s advanced age, their prognosis was not promising.
“I asked some clergy colleagues of mine to perform their last rites by telephone, anticipating the worst,” Brett said.
Their condition stabilized somewhat, and family and close friends were able to call in to the hospital on Wednesday, April 8 to wish Henry a happy 77th birthday. That same night, Linda’s condition again took a turn for the worse and doctors feared she may suffered had a stroke. “It was later confirmed that she did not, thankfully, suffer a stroke, but it illustrates how volatile the whole situation was,” Brett explained. “It was very up and down for a while.”
By Good Friday, Henry’s condition had plummeted and on Easter Sunday he died from complications due to COVID-19 after spending 22 days in the ICU. “The fact that this happened during Holy Week made the mysteries of life and death acutely real for me and my family,” Brett said.
Shortly after Henry passed away, Linda began to stabilize and improve. “We were unsure of how long her recovery would take and how complete it would be,” Brett explained. On Tuesday, May 12, after 59 days on a ventilator, Linda was well enough to be transferred out of Charlotte Hungerford Hospital and into Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford to convalesce.
On Friday, June 12, Linda was finally released and allowed to go home. Her release from the facility was a monumental triumph. “Some of the doctors and nurses who had cared for her at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital came out to witness her release and cheer her on,” Brett said. “I am so grateful for the kindness and compassion of all the healthcare workers that were involved in my parent’s care. They really saved my mom’s life, and that warrants recognition.”
Currently, Linda is at home and getting stronger every day. She is using a walker to get around, and Brett anticipates it won’t be long before she doesn’t need even that anymore. “Not only did my mother live, she is well on her way to making a full recovery,” Brett said of Linda who is in good spirits.
“It’s really a miracle that she even survived. During the whole ordeal, she was encircled by so much love and lifted up by the prayers of so many people. My mom’s story is a testament to the power of prayer and God’s love.”
For Brett, this is a time of mixed emotions. “It’s a time of profound jubilation, but also a time of profound sadness. My mother survived, but I lost my father,” Brett reflected.
In memory of Henry Figlewski’s legacy, the Figlewski family has contributed a small monetary gift to the pet therapy program at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare to honor their father’s love for animals at www.gaylord.org/.