Jennifer Oberholzer admits she was not always receptive to COVID-19 public safety measures, like wearing a mask. Since the death of her husband to COVID-19 in December, she is sharing her husband’s story as a warning that the virus could impact any family.
“I admit that I was adamantly opposed to being told to wear a mask. I have never been 100 percent sure that masks were a preventative measure, I believed that we were given immune systems for a reason,” said Oberholzer. “I would tell you now, I will wear that mask out of respect for anyone who is going through this right now and in honor of my husband. COVID-19 shows no mercy and it takes the most important people out of your lives.”
In the beginning of December, Jennifer and her husband Lenny began experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“We both started out with what we thought was a case of the snuffies, but we both always got that this time of year, so we didn’t think anything of it,” Oberholzer said.
After a few days, Lenny’s symptoms got worse, but he still thought it was a routine winter cold.At work, Jennifer was tested for COVID-19. Her test came back positive. She called her husband right away, to come home and make plans to get a COVID-19 test.
“An hour later, he came home and just fell to the bed, which is unusual for him,” recalled Jennifer. “I remember it was a Friday, and Friday night was date night for us.”Lenny stayed in bed the rest of the weekend.
“Saturday was Lenny’s day to visit a buddy or do work around the house. But this day he didn’t move. He didn’t want to eat, he just laid in bed and coughed and coughed,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer urged Lenny to go to the emergency room for help. While he initially resisted, on Sunday he agreed to go to WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital.
“A gentleman came out to the car with a wheelchair,” recalled Jennifer. “Lenny was so weak, they had to pull him out of the car. That was the last time I saw him face to face.”
In the hospital, Lenny tested positive for COVID-19. His care team determined a ventilator was necessary.
“When they called me to tell me they were going to put him on the vent, I told the doctor, ‘Before you do that, you need to tell him that his wife loves him very much, and that you need to continue to fight.’”
While he was on the ventilator, Lenny’s team of nurses set up virtual visits with Jennifer, so she could see her husband.
“The staff at the hospital was great. They said during one of our calls he winked at me, flirting with me. He was able to mouth the words ‘I love you’ to our son even with the tube in his mouth.”
About a week later, Lenny’s condition was not improving, and he was transferred to Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Jennifer said Lenny’s kidneys began to shut down and doctors there told her to come to the hospital with her sons to say goodbye.
“We just sat with him. We kept telling him how much we loved him, and how he was loved by so many people. I told him it was OK for him to go and the boys would take care of me. We watched him take his last breath 10 minutes later,” recalled Jennifer. “That’s what COVID-19 did. COVID-19 took the absolute love of my life.”
Jennifer says that Lenny was very aware of COVID-19, as he went into homes for his plumbing and heating business.
“He would ask that customers wear masks and keep children in another part of the house, to protect both himself and the customer’s family,” said Jennifer. “He knew that the virus was real and it could get him at any time -- and it did.”
Jennifer wants others to learn from her experience and take every preventative measure possible.
“If the vaccine is something for you, do it. Wear the mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, do what you need to do to stop it,” said Jennifer. “It’s not a chooser of one person over another. It takes anybody.”