Joe Lewinger, an assistant principal at a Long Island school, didn't have any underlying health conditions but he still caught the infection.
Everybody around Joe Lewinger, an assistant principal at a school in Long Island, was inspired by him and loved him, says his wife Maura. She was suddenly left to cope with his loss when he passed away because of the pandemic on March 28. The 42-year-old father of three was a beloved member of the community and had been working at Catholic High School on Long Island, New York, for 20 years.
"He always had a listening ear, no matter what you were talking about, Joe was always listening. He always felt like you are the most important person in the room," Maura told CNN. "He always took care of me, got me my coffee and helped me in every way.”
He was one of the many thousands who died because of the pandemic in New York. Joe, who was healthy and had no underlying condition, started out with mild symptoms.
He started out with a low-grade fever and around St. Patrick's Day in March his fever spiked. After that, he began to have respiratory problems. It was not mentioned on which day he was taken to the hospital but in the days before he passed away he got to spend time with his family through FaceTime because he was in isolation. The nature of the disease is such that those around a patient are also at risk.
Maura spent "pretty much spent 24/7 on FaceTime, trying to mediate and calm him, trying not to let him feel alone. The country is getting used to remote learning and we had to get used to virtual caregiving and virtual marriage in just being there for each other," she said.
Eventually, the doctors told her that he was on different medications and yet his breathing was getting worse. She was already at a breaking point and wanted to speak to the man she loved so dearly. "I saw him and I begged him not to leave us and told him we all need him," said the mother-of-three.
There was hope for a short while when doctors said that there could be other methods to keep him alive. While she waited, she listened to her wedding song over and over. When the doctor called back, she knew that it was soon going to be over.
"I thanked him for being the most amazing husband, for making me feel cherished and loved every single day,” she said. Then, she played their wedding song when the doctor said that Joe didn't have a pulse anymore. "I played our wedding song for him. And then that was it,” she said. “So I was with him when he passed.”
She has a message for people who are not paying attention to the need of the hour: self-isolation and social distancing. "People are just not being careful. People are being so invincible-feeling and they think it can’t happen to them," she said. "You cannot, cannot, be with people that are not in your house. As sad and lonely and everything that is, you must, must stay with only the people in your house."
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Maura and her three kids, son Jack and daughters Madison and Maeve. The page describes the man in their lives beautifully: "Joe was funny, smart, compassionate and selfless… always putting others before himself. A loving husband, father, friend and school assistant principal. He worked hard every single day to do this part to make this world a better place. He touched the lives of everyone he met and was always willing to offer help, support, guidance, and advice."
On her Facebook page, she continues to urge others to practice social distancing so that more people can be saved since that is how she can make sense of her husband's untimely and unexpected death. "If my husband had to die to save others, I will make peace (one day) with the fact that his death was just as impactful as his life. But it has to be for that reason!" she wrote.