As her father died of coronavirus in a Gilroy isolation ward on Tuesday, Stacey Silva stood in the ICU hallway, behind two sets of glass doors, and watched as the medical team in blue protective gear and plastic face shields finally turned off the heart monitor.
His two children, Stacey, 42, whose father lived in a “casita” in front of her family home in Gilroy, and Dwayne Young, 38, who lives with his wife and five children on the outskirts of Chicago, barely contemplated that this new virus would kill their dad.
Yes, he had diabetes and throat cancer some two decades earlier, but he was a robust man with a great sense of humor. When Dwayne spoke with his dad on the phone, just a half hour before he died, he still didn’t realize this was the end. His father was sedated and a nurse held the phone to his ear, but Dwayne was optimistic and tried to sound light-hearted.
“We all want to see you get healthy. We want to give you a big hug and hear your stupid jokes,” Dwayne recalled telling his dad. “And I told him, with everything you’ve been through — cutting his toe off with a lawn mower, drilling a hole through his thumb when he slipped, he tore his leg up before I was born in a motorcycle accident — I just told him, ‘This is nothing. You’ve got this.’ ”
They don’t know how their father contracted the virus that so far has infected more than 675 Californians and killed at least 16, including six in Santa Clara County alone. But he was always shaking hands and saying “good morning!” to everyone, no matter what time of day it was.
“It would take them back just a little bit,” Stacey said. “He was a jokester. He told the stupidest jokes. He would put smiles on everyone’s faces. My dad was just a loving, kind, gentle human being. The world needs more people like him.”
Stacey Silva poses for a selfie with her father Gary Young. Young, who started showing symptoms of the coronavirus on March 3, died Tuesday with no family members present. (Courtesy of Stacey Silva)
When her mother, Melody Young, died last May after struggling with cancer for more than two years, her father was devastated. The couple had been married 46 years. It was a marriage filled with laughs — and patience. Young was a talker — even after his throat cancer softened his voice — and he would often leave his wife and kids waiting in the car for more than a half hour as he said his goodbyes at parties.
He always wore his heart on his sleeve and was so affectionate that when his son announced he was moving to Campbell from the family home when they lived in San Jose, “he hugged me for about 20 minutes saying he didn’t want me to go. I told him, ‘I’m only 10 minutes away.’”
The first time Stacey tried to visit her dad at the hospital, she brought his slippers and razor but had to hand them to a nurse. Her father already was isolated behind a solid wood door, and she couldn’t even see his face.
The next day, he had been moved to the room at the end of the hall in the intensive care unit, one with the glass doors. Behind the first door, the medical team changed into protective gear and face shields. Behind the second was the patient. By then, Young was using a BiPAP breathing machine. A ventilator would come next.
Flowers aren’t allowed in ICU, so Stacey’s 18-year-old daughter, Haley, made a sign instead. She taped four pieces of binder paper together and wrote a note in black Sharpie. “Keep your mask on,” it said. “We love you!”
The nurse taped it up inside his room.
In the coming days, just before he was put on the ventilator, Young texted Stacey what he might have said in person if he could: “I’m scared.”
On Saturday, four days before he died, Stacey and her wife, Jaz Silva, walked down the long hallway in the intensive care unit and peered through the two glass doors. They could see him in his hospital bed. He looked up.