BOURBONNAIS — Dale Shaw was so close to death due to the effects of COVID-19 that his wife truly believed a mid-April telephone conversation she had with her husband of 43 years would be their last.
Pam, 64, wanted so desperately to go inside the third-floor intensive care unit where her husband was being cared for to give him one last hug, one last kiss.
The nursing staff at Riverside Medical Center, however, said such an exchange was impossible.
This “end of life visit,” which, of course, Dale, also 64, had no idea of its significance at the time, was as gut-wrenching, horrifying and emotional an experience that Pam had ever experienced in her life to this point.
“It was horrible. I said goodbye to my husband through a plate-glass window. It looked as though he was sleeping. He was so sick,” she said while fighting back tears. “I will never get that image out of my mind.”
Fortunately for the Shaws, it was not the last time they saw each other. While it may have been the low point in Dale’s 91-day fight against COVID-19 in a healthcare facility, it is a fight he is winning.
It has been a fight for many in Kankakee County as well as across Illinois and the country.
To date, 63 deaths in Kankakee County have been classified as COVID related. Of the 1,350 total COVID cases within Kankakee County’s boundaries, 977 has been classified as “recovered.” Dale is one of those recoveries.
Dale returned home late last week from Riverside and he is now recuperating at home. Although he is unable to walk right now due to loss of muscle and is beginning his physical and occupational therapies, he is alive and that is really all that matters.
“COVID kicked my butt,” Dale said while seated in his recliner chair in the subdivision just north of the Kroger grocery store. Dale was basically hospitalized for the entirety of the months of April, May and June. He lost 50 pounds. He is now on oxygen and currently unable to walk. He only recently began using his arms again.
The coronavirus ravaged the former Exelon security guard and put him at the brink of death.
“Anyone who says COVID is not real is crazy,” he said. “I’m here to tell them otherwise.”
A YEAR TO FORGET
For Dale and Pam, like so many others, 2020 is a year they would soon like to forget.
Not only did Dale nearly become part of the growing death toll associated with the virus, but Pam also was hospitalized as she was infected with the virus only days prior to Dale diagnosis.
Pam was discharged from Riverside on March 31. The two nearly crossed paths as she was heading home after her discharge, Dale was being delivered by ambulance as family found him unconscious in his upstairs bedroom. He was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and a high fever.
Dale admits many of the details regarding his medical journey are sketchy. He was in and out of consciousness throughout his stay at the hospitals where he was being treated and recuperated.
In addition to Riverside, he spent time at Kindred Hospital Northwest Indiana in Hammond, Ind., as well as Kindred Chicago Central Hospital in Chicago. He was returned to Riverside on June 12 to begin his acute rehab and then released on June 26.
Much to his surprise when he returned home, a large crowd of family and friends was waiting to greet the man some thought they would never see again.
He noted during his hospital stay he dropped about 50 pounds — mainly muscle. That loss of muscle is why his working to regain the use of his legs and further use of his arms.
MUCH WORK AHEAD
He believes those extremities will soon be put back into use sooner rather than later. He hopes to be once again walking within the next month or so. Until then he is using a wheelchair to get around the house and friends donated a scooter so he could get around the neighborhood which he has called home for the past 19 years.
COVID-19 is known to have far greater physical impacts on those people with existing health conditions. Dale has dealt with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD. Basically, COPD is a classification of lung diseases which block airflow and makes breathing difficult.
Outside of that illness, he said he was healthy.
“I was one of those people who didn’t think COVID would ever get here. I didn’t even think about contracting the virus,” he said. “But I’m here to tell people this is real.”
Pam nodded in agreement. She knows there are months ahead of them with rehab. And there will always be some worry in the back of her mind wondering if this could happen again.
“Our lives have totally changed. Nothing in our lives exists as it used to be. Our daily life consists only of this. Hopefully the worst part is over. At least we hope.”
FIGHT OF HIS LIFE
Dale said this better be the only time he has to face the coronavirus head-on. He doesn’t believe he has that much fight left in him to take it on a second time.
“I wouldn’t do it again,” he flatly stated.
His words made Pam tear up a second time.
“He was fighting for his life from Day 1,” she said. She acknowledged, however, that when it appeared her husband may not have survived, she told him he had her blessing to end his fight. Those words were some of the most difficult to ever cross her lips.
“I told him ‘If you want to stop, I understand.” It was hard to say, but he needed to hear that.”
Dale said giving up was not in his cards.
He kids his wife a little bit. He tries to make her laugh about those harrowing days. She asked him not to joke about such a serious matter.
“I’m not sure this is a story we will laugh about,” she said.
One thing she is sure of, however, is the fight Dale had within him.
“I know he had the determination to get out of this.”
SPRINGFIELD — New Illinois state laws dictating minimum wage, certain driving offenses and LGBTQ history education in public schools will take effect today.
Low-wage workers statewide will see a salary increase for the second time this year as required by a law signed last year by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The minimum wage will increase to $10 from $9.25. There was a $1 hike in January, from $8.25 per hour, the first statewide increase in more than a decade. In Chicago, the minimum wage will increase $1, to $14 per hour.
LGBTQ history must be taught in Illinois public schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year. The bill also requires schools to purchase textbooks that are “non-discriminatory” and “include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.”
The legislation also requires the state’s public schools to teach at least one semester of civics any time between sixth and eighth grades. The lessons must focus on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues and simulations of the democratic process.
Under the new laws, the secretary of state will be allowed to suspend or revoke driving privileges when a person is using an electronic communication device while driving and results in “great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement.” The offense is also subject to a minimum $1,000 fine. Illinois banned texting while driving ten years ago.
In another change, the secretary of state can’t suspend a person’s driver’s license or vehicle registration for failing to pay a fine or penalty on time. Lawmakers expressed the belief a person still has the right to drive to work despite not being able to afford a driving ticket.
Illinois’ gas tax was doubled last year to 38 cents per gallon to fund road improvement. A 0.7 cent-per-gallon increase is mandated under a new formula tying the tax to the rage of inflation.
The size of an employer will no longer determine whether workers will be protected from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion and a range of other protected categories.
The definition of employer in the Illinois Human Rights Act was changed to mean anyone employing one or more person in the state for 20 or more weeks within the calendar year. Previously, employer was defined under the act as having 15 or more people under employment.
Also taking effect Wednesday are requirements that casino and hotel employers include in an anti-sexual harassment policy a provision allowing an employee to take paid time off to file a police report or criminal complaint.
After months of uncertainty, school districts are now in the midst of reviewing extensive state guidelines for reopening and finalizing plans for what learning will look like in the fall.
Some local superintendents say their teams began planning for what-ifs long before the 60-page document from the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health was released June 23.
Now, with a clearer idea of what will be required for next school year, they are mulling through guidance for how they can ensure in-person instruction during Phase 4 of the state’s reopening process.
Requirements include that students and teachers must wear PPE including face masks and maintain social distancing; gatherings of 50 or more are prohibited, temperature checks and/or self-certification of being symptom-free is required, and enhanced cleaning efforts are required.
The document also outlines recommended procedures for aspects such as grading, transportation, food service, gym and music classes, etc.
Each school district will have the flexibility to implement the guidance based on its unique student enrollment, staffing and other factors, though ISBE is “strongly encouraging” schools to provide in-person instruction for all students.
Schools and districts are also being advised to prepare for a return to remote instruction in the event of a resurgence of the virus or a second wave of it in the fall.
Momence Superintendent Shannon Anderson said that while administrators wanted to know how to proceed as soon as possible to aid with planning, they also understood the magnitude of the “herculean task” of providing protocols for over 2 million students across the state.
“With [the document] being so substantial and voluminous, it’s going to take us some time to review all of it, which we have started doing,” he said. “Then we are developing our own district plan that coincides with the guidelines and is in the best interest of the safety of our kids and our staff.”
Anderson said that before the guidance was released, the district began ordering PPE, cleaning supplies and temperature-taking equipment in anticipation of Phase 4. He said the district will take its time in reviewing the guidelines before making final decisions on how best to proceed with the school calendar, building sanitation and other factors.
“We want to be thorough,” he said. “Student and staff safety remains in the forefront for us as we move forward.”
He also said school plans will have to remain flexible with the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
“I think that everyone is really trying to do their best with this situation, as far as school districts and school communities are concerned, to prepare for the fall,” Anderson said. “I applaud those efforts, not just of our own school district, but of everybody who is having to take on this task of keeping everybody safe.”
Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School Superintendent Scott Wakeley said that the guidance came as good news because it will allow for in-person learning in August.
“I think it’s critically important for us to have kids in front of teachers in the fall, and I think we need to do whatever is necessary, of course to keep people safe, but to get our kids in front of our teachers,” he said.
School will start Aug. 17 instead of after Labor Day since waiting for in-person instruction to be allowed is no longer an issue, he said.
Wakeley said the face mask requirement will be a challenge since only half the building is air conditioned, but it will be critical especially during passing periods when social distancing is harder.
“The success or failure of any of these plans or guidelines are going to be dependent upon people willing to go along and do what is asked of them,” Wakeley said. “If masks need to be worn in order for us to have school, then we need to do the best we can to have people wear masks, and I know nobody wants to wear them. I don’t want to wear them, but the alternative is that we are at home.”
The district is currently looking into ways to limit the number of students in classrooms to maximize social distancing, including a possible blended learning model where students would be in school most days and alternate remote learning days. A detailed plan will be presented during the July school board meeting, he said.
Students will be expected to take their technology home with them in case the building has to close for cleaning after a confirmed COVID-19 case. In that event, students would engage in remote learning until it is safe to return to school.
“It could be like a snow day in August; one day you’re in and the next day you’re not,” he said.
Wakeley also said patience from the community has been appreciated.
“We are all going to do the best we can, and we all have to work together,” he said.
KANKAKEE — The former founder and CEO of a nonprofit health clinic in Kankakee has pleaded guilty in Kankakee County Court to criminal sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in 2017.
Marcos Barajas, 29, was arrested and accused of assaulting the victim between April 29 and July 26, 2017.
Per the agreement to plead guilty, Barajas was sentenced to 12 years in prison. State sentencing guidelines say he must serve 85 percent of the sentence.
“We are glad to resolve the case so that Mr. Barajas will serve a decade in prison without the survivor having to relive the incident,” Rowe said after the recent conclusion of the case.
“We took a number of factors into consideration on this case and those facts, along with the survivor’s participation throughout the proceedings, led to this disposition of a prison sentence and sex offender registration requirements.
“We could not have achieved this outcome without the work of Detective Jen Schoon, the entire Kankakee Police Department, all involved agencies and our brave survivor.”
At the time of Barajas’ bond hearing in August 2017, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe could not say how investigators learned of the alleged incidents.
Barajas was a guiding force behind Hippocrates Medical Clinic, which opened in July 2016.
According to the clinic’s website, the clinic was created to provide medical services to the uninsured or under-insured in the Kankakee County area.
It closed shortly after Barajas was arrested in August 2017. A year later, under new leadership, the clinic reopened.