UNION COUNTY, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) 3/11/21 — Today marks one year since the Arkansas received its first diagnosis of the coronavirus which has impacted more than 300,000 people across the state and killing approximately 5,300 others.
The first case was reported in Pine Bluff while El Dorado reported its first case on March 21. The community would later discover that case involved a staff member at the Salvation Army who was being quarantined.
Two family members in Union County share a special but devastating story on this one year anniversary. Since the pandemic the Davis and Williams families have joined thousands of others who lost their loved to the coronavirus.
“I miss him so much,” Sheila Davis said of her late husband.
“I didn’t expect to lose my mom, you know,” Oyama Williams.
Both took their loved ones to the hospital and never saw their family member again. Williams’ mom, Gloria Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus at the beginning of November. Days later, she had to be admitted to the Medical Center of South Arkansas.
“The other place they could get her with other illnesses was Vicksburg, Mississippi. When she left she didn’t come back. She called and said they were going to put her on a ventilator. She knew once she got on she wasn’t going to get off,” Williams recalled.
Several of his family members also contracted the virus. He says they weren’t gathering up. He believes one person passed it to another family member and so on.
“I was sick with Covid at the time and could not see her off. I would call daily as much as I needed to check on her. She was put on a ventilator for weeks. I sat home lonesome crying everyday because the following Monday my husband contacted Covid and pneumonia from trying to care for me. It was a very sad time for me,” Gloria’s younger sister, Joyce Johnson said.
Williams says his mother died on Thanksgiving day. The smile and laughs he would see everyday from her have now become memories for him.
“If you were having a bad day, all you had to do was go and talk to her,” Williams said. “Before the day was over, she would have you laughing or crying. That was just the type of person she was. She loved everybody.”
A little over a month after Miller passed away from covid, Alice Alford, a family friend of the Williams family, also died from the virus.
“There I was my sister and my friend both gone and I felt like I had no one else to talk to no matter day or night. At one point, my baby sister felt her whole family was leaving her. Covid has left a big dent in my heart so Thanksgiving and Christmas will never be the same,” Johnson said.
Williams is still coping with his mother’s loss. He routinely visited her daily but is now trying to keep busy to not consume his thoughts so much of not having his mom around.
“There have been times where I would call and I would be like shucks,” he said.
What happened to him, he hopes doesn’t happen to anyone else. He’s glad the pandemic is nearing the end but feels like the state is acting too early by eliminating guidelines.
“It bothers me that people don’t take it seriously. You still people not wearing masks. It’s irritating when people say silly things. You have to have faith but you also don’t test God. Follow the guidelines and the rules. It’s crazy,” Williams said.
Shelia Davis’s husband, Dr. Richard Davis, tested positive for the virus on December 15.
The couple went to get tested because they were planning to visit his 85-year-old mom for Christmas. Upon receiving the positive test, neither were experiencing any noticeable symptoms.
On December 16, he noticed he was tired but figured it was fatigue from working so much the weekend before. He decided to take a test on his pulse oximeter.
An abnormal reading showed up on the screen which prompted him to go to the emergency room at the Medical Center of South Arkansas “to be on the safe side”.
Davis ended up spending the night. That one night turned into more nights. The first couple of days he thought he was getting better. He made frequent phone calls but eventually the phone calls became few and he wasn’t responding to anyone’s phone calls or texts.
On December 28, Davis learned that her husband had been having trouble breathing. He was forced to go on a ventilator. Just hours later, his conditioned worsened and he had to be taken to a hospital in Little Rock.
Davis had spent over a week staying in Little Rock to be close to her husband. One weekend she says she needed to go home and the doctor insisted she go for a few days.
That’s when he coded multiple times and she and her son suggested the doctors stop all of the treatment. As Sheila was on her way back to the hospital, he passed away 30 minutes before they were able to see him.
“That was the first time I laid eyes on him, any of the family, since I dropped him off at the E.R. that day. December 16 was when I dropped him off and he passed away January 11,” she said. “That’s real hard. I think that’s the hardest thing you feel like they had to go through this and passed away alone.”
Davis can’t believe it’s been a year since the virus hit the state but she says she and her husband had talks during the beginning of the pandemic about how they believed they would both have a difficult time with the virus because they each had underlying health conditions. Although, she only received mild symptoms of the coronavirus.
“He really preached about everything. He followed all of the CDC guidelines and followed it all of the time,” she said.
It’s been two months since she lost her husband but everyday without her trusted companion of over 40 years has been difficult to cope with. When asked what she missed the most about her him there wasn’t one thing she could say because she misses everything about her best friend.
Dr. Davis, 63, was more than a family physician to hundreds of people across Union County but he was a friend and a father who adored his children. He has two sons, three granddaughters and one great grandson who he never got to hold.
Aside from his medical skills and expertise, Davis was a “jack of all trades” of which amazed his wife, Sheila, countless times. “Everything he did he did it good. He excelled at everything he did.”
“This is when it’s hard to talk. The one thing people don’t understand is that we’ve been together since we were 14. We worked together and everything. Since we’ve been working here in Smackover we’ve been together for 24/7,” she said.
He was close to retirement but never thought he would actually retire. His dream was to treat patients that couldn’t afford medical care and treat them at a free clinic.
It was that compassion for others that won the hearts of many in the community. His legacy will continue to live on at the clinic in Smackover.
“He cared about them and other than just their medical conditions. I love hearing the stories from the patients. I’m going to keep working and my son will carry on the clinic,” she said.
Davis is also glad the pandemic is nearing the end. She says her husband was looking forward to getting the vaccine so the couple could get back to traveling and specifically knocking off items on her bucket list but now it’s one venture she’ll have to make without her husband by her side.
“He couldn’t wait to get the vaccine. I do plan on getting the vaccine as soon as I can,” she said.