The Kindness of Strangers
John Ramos will remember many things from his wife’s journey with COVID-19: how she was one of the first in Aurora to get diagnosed, how the virus caused her to have pneumonia and a heart attack, how she spent five harrowing days in the intensive care unit, and how he was ill and in quarantine himself when doctors finally released her home to his care.
But perhaps one of the things that will stay with him the most is how help and hope arrived on his doorstep at just the right time – thanks to two complete strangers.
John’s wife, Chrisann, who suffered from heart issues and psoriatic arthritis, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-March. “The virus wreaked havoc on her body,” John said. While his wife went to the intensive care unit, John and their 20-year-old daughter, Lexee, who lives with them, went into quarantine.
When Chrisann was finally over the worst of it, John’s great relief quickly turned to panic. He was given only 24 hours’ notice that his wife would be returning home, into his care. Though John, a 64-year-old diabetic, had tested negative for the virus, he had several of the typical symptoms. (Looking back, they suspect it was a false negative test result.) Doctors told him if any of his symptoms grew in strength to go straight to the emergency room.
Still in quarantine, John and Lexee weren’t supposed to go to the store to buy food or other supplies, which they needed, and they had no family nearby to help them. “I was lost,” John said.
Thankfully, that’s when the phone rang. Aurora Salvation Army Captains Rich and Linnea Forney were on the line asking how they could help. Unbeknownst to him, John’s sister, who works for The Salvation Army in Iowa, had told the officers at her corps community center about her brother’s plight. Those officers happened to be good friends with Captains Forney in Aurora, not far from the Ramos’s home. The Iowa officers asked the Aurora officers if they could buy some hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, cough drops, pain reliever, and other supplies and drop them off at the Ramos’s house.
Captains Rich and Linnea were happy to help these neighbors in need, as well as John’s sister, a fellow Salvation Army employee. “We told our friends, ‘Tell her not to worry. The Army family’s hug reaches far into every community. She can rest assured we are here to help,’” said Captain Rich, and they set about gathering the items.
“My wife came home from the hospital on the 21st,” John said. “And within two to three hours a box of items from The Salvation Army arrived on our doorstep.” Captains Forney were in their car at the curb when they called to tell him the box was on their porch. They honked and waved when John peeked his head out. “It moved me and my daughter to tears,” he said.
The food, cleaning products, and medical supplies helped John care for his beloved wife. Doctors had told him to keep his quarantine conditions at home even after his wife returned. “She was supposed to go to her room and I was supposed to put her meals by her doorway and sleep in another room,” he said. He knew that was never going to happen. “I married Chrisann for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,” he said. “If she’s going down, I’m going with her.”
Today, Chrisann is finally able to talk and has her senses of taste and smell back, some of the odder of COVID-19’s symptoms. John’s feeling better too, though his voice still gets raspy if he talks very much. Their daughter, Lexee, is back at work a couple days a week. Every now and then the family receives a call from their new friends at the Aurora Salvation Army, checking to see if they need anything. Captains Rich and Linnea also dropped off a basket of goodies at Easter.
“The Salvation Army has been a blessing to us. I wouldn’t be where I am without their help,” John said, as he started to choke up. “I’m so grateful for The Salvation Army stepping up when I was lost. I’ll never forget it.”
Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus.
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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.