Monthly Archives: January 2021

Great Writing

This weekend, I finally took a little bit of time to go down to our basement and look through some of Erika’s things she had packed away. Unfortunately, it’s only about two small boxes in large part due to a terrible landlord she had in Providence. While living on North Main Street, she had put boxes of her possessions in the building’s basement. This was many of the things she had obtained while overseas, mainly while in Russia, but also from her years at Georgetown and while living in Baltimore and DC. One day, the landlord decided to clean out the basement and without warning, threw away everything in there, and most of Erika’s history was gone. She was always angry about that happening and unfortunately, there really isn’t too much left from that time.

But in my search, I found this pink hat that she wore:

But I have also since determined that she wore it better:

I found some really old looking thumbdrives from when she covered the 2008 Presidential campaign as a reporter, as well as her Blackberry. The Blackberry seems to have a camera on it, so hopefully I can power that up and see if there are any photos on there.

But best of all, I found her stash of copies of one very special Baltimore Sun article. Erika was a finalist in 2004 for the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Writing. She wrote a two-part article about Josie King, an 18-month old girl who died in 2001 at Johns Hopkins University hospital due to medical errors. The hospital worked with Josie’s family and her mother, Sorrel, who then created the Josie King Foundation in Maryland.

Here is the layout of her story in the Baltimore Sun, dated December 14-15, 2003.

I’m not expecting anyone to read the article from that photo. If you’d like to read Erika’s work, you can find on the Baltimore Sun web site: “How Medical Errors Took a Little Girl’s Life.”

And as I always have to finish with a great photo of Erika, here is one of her professional headshot photos from the Baltimore Sun.

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Erika News

I know people have been waiting for news about Erika. I’m sorry it’s taken this long but the reports were not completed until 12/24 and we didn’t get the information until 12/31. I have not read the reports myself yet, the hospital requires that I fill out some paperwork, mail it in and then wait. However, 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. I still don’t have 100% of the information that I want, but I’ll explain.

First, she did not have COVID. 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 undiagnosed Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. That is a cancer in 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 had 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 shocking 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 have not had services for her yet, but will in the coming months and I’ll keep everyone informed of that.

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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