FAIR OAKS, Calif. (KTXL) — Erin and Sam Nichols’ love story began when they were just teens in the ROTC program together at Casa Roble High School in Orangevale.
“This super cute, tall boy with blue eyes starts coming over to me, this incoming freshman,” Erin told FOX40. “And he came and introduced himself to me and shook my hand and kissed me on the cheek.”
They had been together ever since and enjoyed 16 years of marriage, during which time Sam would serve in the Marine Corps and see two tours in Iraq.
But in 2007, Sam was commander of a convoy security detail that was hit by a couple of improvised explosive devices. Four other men in the convoy were killed.
He sustained a traumatic brain injury in the blast, which paralyzed the left side of his body.
Life was never the same but Erin said Sam had great quality of life.
And as they witnessed the novel coronavirus develop into a pandemic, every safety precaution was necessary to keep Sam healthy.
Erin was not able to physically have contact with her husband. A simple touch of the hand or cheek had always been a comfort for one another but even that was too risky.
Then last Friday, which began as a normal day, Sam was rushed to the emergency room. He had a fever of 106 degrees by that afternoon.
As his blood pressure began to crash and his heart rate elevated, he was rushed into the intensive care unit. Within five minutes, Erin heard the nurses say “code blue.”
A nurse friend they had come to know over the years happened to pass by at that critical time.
“She actually came and sat with me in the ICU waiting room as it was happening. And she stayed with me until, I think, after my mom got there and just was there holding me and talking to me,” Erin recalled.
Sam had died.
After he passed, Erin was allowed to see her husband but not knowing if COVID-19 took his life, she had to wear safety gear. She was led into a decontamination room and put on protective clothing, gloves and facial protection.
“Touch him for the first time in like three weeks,” she said. “Put my head on his chest and kissed his forehead and hold his hand.”
The medical director of Sam’s rehabilitation home later learned that Sam’s tests came back negative for COVID-19.
While the virus may not have taken his life, the pandemic still stole something from the pair — the precious touch from the one they loved most.
“Most of us are gonna be caregivers for someone at some point in our lives and it’s something that you can do and you will do because you love your person,” Erin said. “So, do it with a smile because they’re your person and they’re not gonna be there forever.”
Click or tap here to access the GoFundMe page that has been created to help Erin.