Erika News

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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9 thoughts on “Erika News

  1. Doug Gablinske

    I only knew Erika for a few years. We were mostly on opposite side of issues at the State House. We started working together on a couple of projects and I really came to like her. She was SO smart, disarming, congenial and we were able to put our advocacy issues aside and I thought very highly of her. I was shocked and dismayed by her passing. She had a lot to contribute in many ways. I have lost an unexpected friend. I will miss her

    Reply
  2. Laurie D. Willis

    I continue to be disheartened by this news. I really liked Erika and enjoyed sitting across from her in The Baltimore Sun newsroom. I affectionately called her “Curly Sue” and simply cannot imagine what you and her parents and other relatives are going through. God rest your soul, Erika. 🙁

    Laurie

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Patrick, Thanks for sharing this. Erika was an amazing person and a great reporter. Even knowing the reason now, it seems so unfair and tragic. I’m glad you two had that time together. Ed

    Reply
  4. Dick Stout

    Patrick,
    My heartfelt condolences to you and Erika’s family. Take comfort in her memory and the time you shared. Here if I can help in anyway. Dick Strout.

    Reply
  5. Frances Brunsell and George Sehn

    Our heart goes out to you. We are long time friends with Marion (from College) and Ray (childhood friend) and feel very deeply about your loss and theirs. Fran and husband George

    Reply
  6. Fred Unger

    Patrick

    I am so sorry to hear of Erika passing. We worked together on energy issues. She was one of the good guys

    Fred Unger

    Reply
  7. Russell Maymon

    Like everyone else, I was saddened and shocked to hear of Erika’s passing. I am in the renewable energy industry and often ran into her at the State House or one of the many hearings and meetings on important RE policy and procedures. She was always engaging and never shy about getting into the discussion, and always with meaningful and helpful comments. Additionally, she was a friend to the RENEW Energy Initiative group that we were both members of. She was a presenter at two of our events including the last in-person meeting we had in March ’20 on Community Solar. REI has planted a tree in her honor.
    She will be missed by all who knew her, my deepest condolence to you Patrick.

    Reply
  8. Kitty Eisele

    I am so deeply sorry. Erika’s death is, as you write, simply tragic. My heart hurts for all her friends and family. My dad, Al Eisele, is not well enough to write himself but shares his deep good memories of a wonderful Hill and Sun reporter, and adds his sad condolences.

    Reply
  9. Raducha Paul

    I had the opportunity to work with Erika on renewable energy initiatives. Best of all we spoke together at a few conference and I really got to know her. One thing about Erika is she knew her subject matter and was dedicated to to making things better. She was disarming and was able to talk to people on both sides of an issue and find common ground. But I saw times just when I thought she was compromising too much she dug in her heels and stood her ground. She backed up her position and brought people to her side. She was real what you saw and heard was her. I will miss her our industry will miss her.

    Reply

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