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COVID-19 starts to appear in Springfield, Mo. obituaries

COVID-19 survivor, Mercy nurse both celebrate the new openness
Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 9:39 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - We’ve had more than 3,100 deaths in Missouri from COVID-19. But, if you glanced at the obituaries, you may not have seen the virus mentioned at all until recently.

“One of the hardest things for me personally was driving away from that ER. (Cox South).," Tom Gammons says when talking about the losse of his wife Joyce to COVID-19.

The Emergency Room is a sight of so many unknowns and heartbreaking goodbyes during this pandemic.

"First of June...,” Tom recalls.

And, the ER date (see video) is right there on the wall in Tom Gammon’s office. His wife Joyce would spend 16 days at Cox South. He tells us she spent 14 of those days on the ventilator.

“Joyce was very gregarious,” Tom recalls.

The virus stole his baseball buddy, his traveling friend and his wife.

"I got to go in the room and talk to her and hold her hand. When I was done then I stepped out and then they came in and took the vent out. And, I went back in and held her hand and talked to her while she passed,” Tom remembered. "I was so thankful that I was there.”

Joyce became Christian County’s first COVID-19 death. And, unlike most survivors, Tom talked about his loss publicly.

"I wear a mask out of hope that you never have to tell your grandchildren that their grandmother, their favorite person, had to leave to be with Jesus,” Tom stated in July.

Now, the further we get into the pandemic, more people are talking about COVID-19 victims publicly. The virus is even showing up in published obituaries; from the loss of a Navy veteran, to the death of a former cafeteria worker and the passing on of a farmer.

"It is an honor to be a part of those patient’s last moments of care,” Mercy Nurse Wanda Brown told us.

Brown never really gets away from the virus. She’s thankful for the community support and the way people are now openly talking about the potential impact.

"This is very real. I’m glad to see that people are putting it out there that this is actually happening. It’s something we deal with every day. So, we know it’s real and really happening. And, it’s a dangerous situation,” Brown told us.

"I miss her every day,” reflects Tom.

Tom and Joyce would have celebrated a 33rd anniversary on December 12. He feels the best gift he can give her now is spreading the word about the virus; potentially saving another sister, wife and grandma from a life cut short.

"I think it’s important that people know... that what happened to my family could happen to their family. So, when you lose a loved one to COVID, that the public know it, My family will never be the same,” concluded Tom.

I’m told harsh reactions like this one on KY3′s Facebook page keeps many relatives of COVID-19 victims out of the public eye. In this post, a viewer says, “Congratulations KY3 on continuing the great(ly) exaggerated over-blown reactionary COVID19 fear campaign!” Despite that type of anger, Greene County’s COVID-19 memorial wall has slowly grown from two to nine of our neighbors. See the memorial here: https://www.springfieldmo.gov/5273/COVID-19-Living-Memorial

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