Mom of 4 Loses 'Magnetic' Husband to COVID-19: 'My Kids Are Being Cheated of Their Dad'
PEOPLE's Voices from the Coronavirus Crisis will share firsthand accounts of the people facing unique challenges during the pandemic
At the end of March, Trish Phillips' life was forever changed when the Pennsylvania mom's husband, Andrew "Andy" Phillips, was admitted to the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. As he fought for his life, Andy's 86-year-old father Donald Phillips died of the virus on April 28. In the meantime, Trish, 49, and their children all contracted COVID-19, with son Colin, 20, eventually requiring hospitalization at the same time as his dad. Andy, 53, lost his two-month battle on May 31, leaving behind his wife and four children, including Grace, 22, Aidan, 17, and Andrew, 15. This is Trish's story, as told to PEOPLE.
How do you sum up someone like Andy? He was always the most genuine, likable guy in the room. He had a magnetic personality and a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable. He made me feel so safe, and he took care of us. We would've been married for 25 years on Nov. 18. We loved being together — and I just miss that.
In 1999, Andy was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He had an advanced type of cancer, but they got him in remission and he never had a recurrence again. It was amazing. While he was sick, I got pregnant with our second child, Colin, and the doctor said, "That’s so great because you probably wouldn’t be able to conceive again [due to his illness]."
For a while, we felt so lucky to have two kids, but then Andy kept saying, "I wish we could have another baby, I wanna have more." I ended up getting pregnant and the doctors couldn’t believe it.
The one thing I always remember Andy saying was, "If anything ever happens to me, I want you to be surrounded by children." It's so weird that he said that. Maybe he had some sixth sense.
Andy went into the hospital on March 29. He had just traveled to California for work around that time. We're thinking that's how he got it — somewhere amidst the travel or having business dinners — but it's just so hard to say.
The first night Andy was hospitalized, he asked to speak to each one of the kids and myself. We were talking and texting, and then I didn't hear from him again. That was the last time we spoke. He had to be intubated that night.
The nurse who was in the room when they intubated him reached out to me and said his last words were, "Please don't tell Trish till the morning. She's going to be so upset," because he knows at night I can't sleep if I'm worried. That's just how he was, thinking about everybody before himself.
For the first 35 days of the virus, we didn't see him or FaceTime with him because he was too sick. Our four children were all home because of the virus, and that part was great in that we were all together, but it was really hard trying to balance protecting them and being truthful with them since they're old enough to really grasp it all.
During that time, Andy's dad died from the virus. He never really knew Andy was so sick and went really quickly. Then, all five of us got sick. Colin actually had to get admitted to the hospital right after Andy went in because he got so bad. I thought, "Here is my husband in the ICU, and now my 20-year-old." That was really horrible and put everyone over the edge. But thankfully, Colin recovered.
Everybody — even the doctors — thought for sure Andy was also going to be okay, like he was going to be their miracle. Andy was so young and so healthy. He was super into eating-healthy. He worked out five, six days a week. So it was really so hard at the end.
When he went into sepsis and everything started to shut down, we were all brought in to say goodbye. As they were going to turn off the ventilators, I asked one of the nurses, "Is there any way he'll wake up one last time?" She said, "There's no way. I'm sorry." But right before he passed, he did open his eyes. He knew we were all there and were by his bed. That was such a gift.
I feel young to be alone now. It's scary. I don't work. Andy was our sole provider, so that's definitely in the back of my mind. I had an amazing marriage and all these amazing years with him, but I feel the most sad for my kids that they're being cheated of their dad.
My two teenage boys, they're still processing and sad and not saying a ton yet. Colin is furious. He's just like, "He was my best friend. I can't believe this. He's not going to be there to help me."
Grace had to sign a contract for her new job. When he was still in the hospital, she asked the boss if she could have more time so that her dad could read the contract because he was going to wake up soon. Andy was always helping and looking out for her.
But Grace also said to me, "You know, Mom, I have so many friends from college that have had such rough relationships with their parents and dads who just weren't around or available. At least we had such an awesome dad for as long as we did. That's better than a lifetime of a lousy dad." I thought her perspective was amazing.
I think we're all just up and down and learning what grief's like. We're all handling things differently and doing as well as we can, but we're all going to be okay. We have an amazing family, and he gave them such a good foundation.
Lately, it seems we're getting right back to where we started with all of this quarantining, so that is really frustrating for us. And that is really upsetting because even the kids' friends who prayed for Andy and loved him are so angry about it and having to wear masks.
I think about being in quarantine again. I think about the kids not being able to go to school, people not being able to work and me being stuck inside again alone, and all those things — it's scary.
Unless it touches you, you don't think it's that real, and I just don't understand how people don't get it.
Why do you have to be personally touched or have someone you love die in order to take this seriously? It's infuriating. It's like you want to scream it from the rooftops.
I just wish collectively we could all just be safe and do the right thing. People are going to have to figure this out for themselves, and it's not going to get better until we can all come together, but I don't know how many more lives we can lose.
- As told to Joelle Goldstein
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