Updated February 4, 2021
We finally got information about what happened and a meeting with one of Erika’s doctors on December 31, 2020. I have read all the reports myself as well. One of the doctors who attended to Erika in the hospital took time to speak with me and Erika’s parents after reviewing the reports, and I also got in touch with an oncologist who took about an hour of his time to help explain things to me.
First, it is extremely unlikely that she had COVID. We can’t be 100% certain but Erika took three separate COVID tests, all were negative. I took COVID tests at that time too, also negative. Out of curiosity, I took a COVID antibody test to see if I’d ever been exposed to coronavirus, but that also came back negative.
The short answer is that Erika had a long-term, undiagnosed Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (small b-cell). That is a cancer affecting the lymph nodes and bone marrow. She never had any obvious signs, we never knew it or saw it coming, and the first time it was ever mentioned was when she was in the hospital. Here’s what happened.
In August, Erika began having drenching night sweats and body aches. We had no idea why, as other than this, everything seemed fine, but it turns out, those are a symptom of lymphoma. She spent the summer on her bike (as you might have seen with her twitter photos here, here, here, here, here and here) training to ride yet another century. Yeah, that’s 100 miles all in one day. So she was on her bike a lot and in great shape. The last time she went for a ride was on Saturday, September 19th. She’d had the beginning of what seemed like a cold and the next day, she needed to rest and stayed in bed all day. All week, she had symptoms of a cold or what seemed like COVID symptoms, and was getting dehydrated. By Friday night, we felt she needed to go to the hospital. We went and she stayed for a few hours and was sent home as everything seemed ok.
For the next two days, she also seemed ok, but continued to have typical cold symptoms. On Monday and Tuesday, she got progressively a little worse each day and by Wednesday, Sept 30th, she was dehydrated again and we made the decision to go back to the hospital in the morning. I expected it to be similar to the previous time, in and out in a few hours. But this time, they admitted her due to some signs and lab work that concerned the doctors.
Over the next 48 hours, her health continued to deteriorate. I spoke to the doctors a number of times in that time period and the whole time, they had a list of things it could be, but they never knew for sure. Lymphoma was on the list of possibilities, but they had about a dozen others as well. I’ve learned that lymphoma cannot be detected by a blood test, only by a biopsy.
Overnight Thursday, October 1 into Friday, October 2, her health really turned tragic. Doctors were keeping me apprised throughout the night via phone calls, but due to the hospital’s COVID restrictions, I was not allowed to stay with her.
On Friday morning, I was given the news that she would not survive much longer. This was completely unexpected and shocking. I got to the hospital at about 10:30 am and stayed by her side. She passed away a very short time later, at 11:43 am on Friday, October 2nd.
We will be holding a virtual service for her, a celebration of her life on Saturday, March 20th at 1 pm. This will be held online so that anyone can attend. The URL to log in will be found at https://patricklaverty.com
This was a tragic, horrifying, shocking, completely unexpected and extremely traumatic experience. Erika was my everything. I am so grateful that I got to spend nearly seven years of my life with her, but this was just inexplicable and unfair. She was so healthy, so full of life and still had so much life yet to live. We were building the best life together and had so many plans for the future. Even to this day, there still are no words. Because there are no words, I find comfort in pictures of Erika, pictures of us together.
Associated Press Obituary
Baltimore Sun Obituary
Obituary written by Erika’s parents, Ray and Marion Niedowski
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