Jay and Cheryl Farley were pleasantly surprised when the community raised thousands to support them after Jay's Covid diagnosis turned their lives upside down. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/The Enterprise)
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ONTARIO – One day after being diagnosed with pneumonia, Jay Farley was back in the emergency room – where he was placed in a wheelchair, given oxygen and fluids, and tested for Covid.
Farley, 67, tested positive for the coronavirus on Aug. 6 and spent the following weeks quarantined with his wife, Cheryl, by his side at their home on the Oregon Slope between Ontario and Weiser.
Cheryl, a certified nurse’s aide at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, said she started to worry when her husband was sent home with supplemental oxygen.
“I’ve been at the hospital for 20 years. We normally don’t send our patients home with an oxygen system,” she said. “When they told me they were sending him home with it, then I knew I was in for a long ride because normally it means that you’re, you know, taking them to the end.”
Jay said he has “no clue” how he became infected. Described by his wife as an “old-fashioned cowboy,” he has worked for 18 years as truck driver for Arlo G Lot Trucking Inc. in Jerome, Idaho, driving to Portland and Seattle and back every week, and only stopping for gas or a weigh station.
“Most of the time, I don’t come into contact with anyone,” said Jay. “I’m almost self-quarantined all of the time.”
For about two weeks after being diagnosed, Jay recovered at home, unable to walk and suffering memory loss for five to six days.
“I lost several days, I don’t know where they went,” he said. “I don’t remember them at all.”
The virus hits hard.
“You can’t do nothing, you’re so weak you can’t hardly walk across the floor,” he said. “To get up and walk to the kitchen, you’re out of energy. I mean, it just saps your strength.”
An online fundraiser organized by friends of the Farleys raised over $6,000 in eight days, and both Jay and Cheryl said they felt humbled by the support.
“I know who’s been donating, and it’s my coworkers, my family, community members,” said Cheryl. “I was blown away when they told me. They didn’t even ask me, they just did it.”
The organizer of the fundraiser wrote on Facebook, “At this time, Cheryl has not been working so she can take care of Jay! Please let’s rally and help someone who helps others every day of her life.”
Cheryl, who was named “Woman of the Year” in 2019 by the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce for her community service, has organized a number of local fundraisers in recent years, including for several local people who were diagnosed with cancer and faced medical bills.
While taking time off from her job to take care of her husband, she put together about 30 gift baskets – with items funded by donors – as part of a fundraiser for a kidney replacement for a man from a low-income family.
As Jay’s symptoms worsened, Cheryl said her biggest challenge was having to separate “being a wife and being a caregiver.”
“It was awful because I knew I had the skills and I knew had the knowledge but I wanted to be weak and just be the sweet little wife on his side, and I couldn’t,” said Cheryl. “It’s like tough love, you’ve just got to suck it up and get it done”
“Reality can change quickly,” she said. “I’ve learned that in the last 10 days when I sat in that hospital room by myself with no one else, wondering what tomorrow was gonna be like.”
“All of the sudden, I’m giving him a shower, I’m helping him eat food, I’m giving him water, I’m giving him medicine, I’m taking care of the lawn, the horse, the dogs. It’s scary,” she said.
Jay said he couldn’t smell or taste anything and didn’t have an appetite for days, but all three have been improving as he feels better day by day and tries “to kick the last of this pneumonia.”
He hopes to return to work in about a week and said he can see the finish line of his illness.
“It’s out there a little ways but it’s not near as far as when we started,” said Jay.
“I miss the people that I work with. I mean, we may not be right together but we run up and down the I-84 corridor together,” he said. “They call me every day or so, all of them. I mean one after another, you know. We’re a big family out there, most of us have been out there 15 to 18 years together running up and down there.”
Easing back into his routine, Jay recently practiced walking from their porch to the horse’s pen and back.
“It’s not very far, but to him, it’s a long trip,” said Cheryl.
“Just let the public know,” Jay said, “that this thing is real, and it’s real serious. I was to the point where they didn’t know if I was gonna make it.”
Cheryl said, “People need to know that this virus is real and that it’s out there. It could be somebody walking by them, it could be something they touch, and they need to mask up and be safe.”
News tip? Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian by email at [email protected] or call 503-929-3053.
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