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Woman speaks out after losing husband to virus

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — The wife of a Johnson County man who lost his battle with COVID-19 is speaking out.

She wants people to know about who her husband was beyond the disease. 

Around a week and a half ago, Dennis Wilson came to AdventHealth in an ambulance, and on Saturday, he became the first person in the county to die from coronavirus.

His wife, Joanna Wilson, said his life was much more important than how it ended. 

Wilson was a longtime teacher and superintendent in southwest Kansas. He worked at La Crosse USD 365, Labette County USD 506, and Lamar R-1 School District in Missouri. Wilson’s passions were education, his family and the art of magic.

“This is day five of quarantine and day five of widowhood for me,” Joanna said. “We’re clicking them off one day at a time. But that’s hard because of the fact that I’m all here all by myself.”

Joanna is spending her time at home reflecting on his life while she waits out quarantine and the county’s stay-at-home order.

She said Dennis was struggling with what he thought was the flu. He would go to the doctor, and they would send him home, telling him to rest and stay hydrated. He was tested for Influenza A and B, and tested negative for both. 

“At nine o’clock Sunday evening, he began to have shortness of breath and, you know, as time went on there, he said, you know, I think it’s getting worse,” Joanna said. “So about midnight we went to the ER and when he got to the ER, his oxygen level had dropped.”

Doctors took an X-ray and found pneumonia. Joanna said his temperature never spiked very high, so he didn’t get tested for coronavirus until it was clear he may have it.

Once he tested positive, she said she was unable to see her husband.

She took to Facebook to chronicle her struggle, and one of per posts ended up on the feed of someone she calls her angel. A nursing administrator at AdventHealth saw what she was going through and made it possible for her to safely see her husband.

“I’m sure that he was extremely frightened and panicked in some of those moments when I wasn’t there,” Joanna said. “I can only think that while I was there that we were together.”

She said she read the messages to Dennis from Facebook like get well cards, and he would respond to her through nodding his head and gripping her hand. 

David Sandy knew Dennis for years through their passion for magic. Both were members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ Kansas City chapter. 

“Magicians are notoriously tight knit because, you know, we have secrets and we only share with each other,” Sandy said. “There’s just a really strong bond in the magic community, and unfortunately, we’ve lost a great, a great comrade.”

Joanna said she will wait out her quarantine, but it won’t keep her from sharing her husband’s story — and putting a face and a name to this deadly pandemic. 

“By the grace of God, I will not get this disease,” Joanna said. “I want to not be ill with it because I want to go on and talk about my husband.”

Joanna is planning a funeral in place of their 50th wedding anniversary. She is hoping to have a large celebration for everyone who loved Dennis.

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