He went to a hospital to install his new computer system. Three weeks later he died there.

Chad Capule was not a patient when he presented to St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He was there to install a new computer system. Then he started to feel bad.

Capule, 49, an IT manager whose only underlying condition was hypertension, tested positive for the coronavirus and was intubated a week after setting up the new system. He died there two weeks later.

Capule’s family believe he would have survived had he been tested for the coronavirus earlier. He was also the victim of another cruel trick of the virus – he started to feel better just before he broke down.

Hours after he was finally tested and found out to be positive, Capule wrote an encouraging email to his friends and family.

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“It was somewhat scary, but the risk is very low and I’m not in danger of death,” he wrote in the email, which his wife, Anne Starkweather, shared with NBC News .

“I want to assure everyone that the main symptoms have eased and that I am on the right track to recover and expect to be back in Washington this weekend,” Capule wrote on 11 March.

Chad Capule.Family photo

Instead, Capule went home in an urn.

“I drove with his ashes in a car for 14 hours,” Starkweather said. She had traveled to Wisconsin to be with her sick husband but ended up testing positive for the coronavirus as well. She had to quarantine herself in a hotel room while Capule lay unconscious in a hospital bed.

Starkweather believes they both caught the virus in their home state of Maryland because Capule didn’t start feeling feverish until March 5, just a day after traveling to Wisconsin for work. He went to an emergency care center but was not tested for the coronavirus. Instead, he was told he most likely had the flu and was sent back to his hotel.

“I don’t know how I’m going to continue without him. He was my life.”

“We don’t think they really deal with COVID from the start, which is a big deal,” said Capule’s sister Angie Capule Fontanilla. She was told in a clinic, “Here are some drugs, go back to your hotel,” she said.

Delayed testing, lack of testing, confusion about symptoms and in some cases no symptoms have all proven to be major hurdles in the fight against the coronavirus and crackdown on its ever-growing death toll. .

On March 8, still suffering from a fever, Capule completed a checklist for COVID-19 in the emergency room at St. Agnes Hospital, but he still has not been tested.

“A nurse told me it was because he hadn’t traveled overseas,” Starkweather said. “Medical staff assured him that it was unlikely to be COVID-19. “

Agnesian HealthCare’s communications manager, Shelly Haberman, said in a statement, “St. Agnes Hospital is committed to providing the best possible care to our patients and the community. As such, we strictly Adhered to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding our COVID-19 care protocols, testing and preparedness efforts.

“These guidelines have continued to be updated as the pandemic evolves, and we have adjusted our processes and procedures accordingly,” Haberman said. The CDC Tips For Testing People With Coronavirus Symptoms was last updated on March 4, March 9, and March 24.

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Capule was tested on March 10 and soon learned he was positive for the virus, in which case he sent the upbeat email to family and friends. He was intubated a day later and died on March 29.

The nurses at Sainte-Agnès were devastated, not only because they needed Capule’s help to understand the new computer system he had just set up, but because they greatly appreciated Capule’s company and playlists featuring her great love of music, said Capule Fontanilla and Capule’s other sister, Benilda Capule.

Chad Capule and his sisters, Angie Capule Fontanilla and Benilda Capule, sing karaoke.Family photo

Capule’s other passions included British television, particularly “Doctor Who”; all kinds of sports, especially the New York Yankees; and animals, especially the rescues he adopted and volunteered for.

Capule’s wide range of interests suited him perfectly for his favorite pastime: trivia.

He and Starkweather competed with trivia teams twice a week. He also volunteered as a quiz host for his local Rotary club, and his co-workers’ kids knew he was the guy who would always be up for a quick quiz session. He even took part in “Jeopardy!” in 2015.

Capule loved to play, Starkweather said, recalling the floors filled with Legos in the Maryland home they shared with three adopted cats.

“He was this totally responsible adult who always brought childlike joy to everything he did,” she said.

“I’m heartbroken and I don’t know how I’m going to get over it,” Starkweather said. “I don’t know how I’m going to continue without him. He was my life.”

The couple met while Capule was under Starkweather’s desk fixing her computer at the association where she worked.

Anne Starkweather and Chad Capule show off their wedding rings in a trivia game they won on their way home from their honeymoon.Family photo

“It was just natural,” Starkweather said. “We never even dated. We just became together.” She proposed, and the couple married in 2007.

Benilda Capule said: “He and Anne are so made for each other. They are part of the other half. I have never seen such a compatible couple.”

They “love life and living together so much,” she added.

Capule and her sisters, who came to the United States from the Philippines as children, were also very close. The two sisters had, in recent years, celebrated their 50th birthday, and the family were planning a big party for Capule’s 50th in July, with friends from high school, college, work and the league.

The rally will now likely be a memorial, Starkweather said. “There are a lot of people who cry about it. “

At a virtual memorial hosted for Capule by his colleagues, almost everyone shared a story about a time Capule helped or put them at ease.

A man, who had recently moved from India to the United States with his family with no means or idea of ​​how to get around, said Capule not only helped him navigate the area but also lent him his car .

Other colleagues said that if they were late for meetings, Capule would fill them up discreetly. And others shared stories of feeling out of place or a little lost until they met Capule.

“Chad was easy to get around, naturally empathetic… and he was able to bring different groups of people together in a way that few people can,” Starkweather said. “I just wish he could hear all the wonderful things people are saying about him.”

Benilda Capule is still trying to deal with the brutal loss of someone who was so full of life. “One day they’re better like my brother, and the next day the next thing you know he’s got to be sedated and things go wrong,” she said. “They just treat people or do tests when it’s too late.”

“I really wish I could be Doctor Who,” said the grieving sister, recalling the hours of British television she spent with her little brother. “And go back in time and save it.”


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Gordon K. Morehouse