By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 30, 2020
JONESBORO—Faith has taken on new meaning since the COVID-19 virus hit the Paulus family.
Fighting a dry cough, fever and unable to breathe, Chuck Paulus went to the hospital on March 19. Three days later, the St. Philip Benizi parishioner was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
About a week after Chuck’s admission to the hospital, his wife, Nancy, was admitted after feeling sick and unable to break a fever with medication. She was in the hospital for nine days.
Their son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Diana Paulus, had different symptoms. In late March, Bob and Diana had blood tests done at a drive-thru facility for the coronavirus. Both tested positive. Bob and Diana, who is pregnant, recovered at home. Nancy and Chuck tested positive while in the hospital.
Most of the family has recovered from the coronavirus, but Chuck remains in the hospital. About a month after entering the hospital, he came out of sedation. He has not completely recovered but is on the right track.
Brandee Paulus Hanes said her dad has been making good baby steps toward recovery. The family had some Zoom calls with the help of the nursing staff a few times. Prior to the calls, they had not seen him in a month. They are unable to visit him due to strict visitation rules at the hospital.
“It’s been a whole new experience not being able to be at his bedside,” said Nancy, who has been married to Chuck for 40 years on Aug. 30.
When feeling lonely or missing her husband, that’s when Nancy’s faith comes in.
The Paulus family have been members of St. Philip Benizi for nearly 40 years. They’ve received immense support from their family and faith community. Father John Koziol, OFM Conv., pastor, checks on the family regularly. Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., set to become the new archbishop of Atlanta on May 6, has shown support, said Nancy.
“This could have been such a lonely experience,” said Hanes. “We have just been filled with so much love and generosity and support. We have never once felt alone during this whole thing.”
Tiffany Olka, a cousin who lives in Minnesota, leads a Facebook live public rosary every day at 6 p.m. for Chuck and all those impacted by the virus. Depending on schedules, family members pitch in to lead. There is also a conference line people can join to say the rosary.
The family has also prayed for people in hospitals as part of a parking lot prayer Christian group. While practicing social distancing, groups of people sit outside of hospitals in their cars, turn on their emergency lights, play worship music and pray for patients and healthcare workers. The song, “Way Maker” by Leeland has been giving the family peace, said Hanes.
“The support system has just come out of nowhere; it is huge,” said Hanes. The support system includes a former librarian who would read to Hanes and her brother when they were kids, priests from all over the United States offering Masses and the circulation of a picture of Owen, Hanes’ son, praying for his grandfather, nicknamed “Opa,” along with his cousins.
“Even though this has been so bad, there’s been so much beauty coming out of it,” said Hanes. “During this really weird time, you know that people are praying and turning to God for support and for thankfulness for the victories.”
“It’s just been wonderful to get the overwhelming response, positive comments and prayers from people we don’t even know, but they still look every day for Brandee and updates,” said Nancy. “Without the support of our Christian family, our Catholic family and our immediate family, I know this would’ve been a long journey. There is hope. People do come out of this, I’m a living example.”
With all the love, support and encouragement, the Paulus family looks forward to welcoming Chuck home soon.
Ever since this whole thing has happened, even in scary moments, the Holy Spirit has brought a peace in our hearts that Dad is coming home, said Hanes.
While there are some unknowns about his condition, Chuck’s family is certain of the homecoming.
“With God, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Nancy. “And we know Chuck is going to come home.”
To join in the daily rosary at 6 p.m. for Chuck Paulus and all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, call 717-275-8940 and enter passcode 5456571.