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Mauston family urges vaccination after unvaccinated man dies of COVID-19

After losing a husband and father, a family opens up about their heartbreak.
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 4:37 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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MAUSTON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Mauston family is encouraging people to get vaccinated after losing a loved one to COVID-19. Wayne Wrigley died on September 10 at just 49 years old.

His family says he did not get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Wayne Wrigley died of COVID-19 on September 10. He was 49 years old.
Wayne Wrigley died of COVID-19 on September 10. He was 49 years old. (WMTV)

WAYNE’S JOURNEY

On July 23, 2021, Wayne Wrigley woke up feeling sick.

“He thought he had a fever and he had a cough,” said Leslie Wrigley, Wayne’s husband. “I told him I thought he could possibly have COVID.”

Leslie took her husband to get tested and the result came back positive. Wayne spent the next five days at home dealing with a variety of severe symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and a loss of appetite.

Five days later, Leslie took Wayne into the hospital to get some fluids. Doctors sent him back home to rest and recover.

Two days after that, when Wayne started to have trouble breathing, Leslie called 911. On July 31, he was admitted to Mile Bluff Medical Center Mauston.

About a week later, Wayne was med-flighted to Gundersen Health hospital in La Crosse to receive more intensive care. Leslie says doctors shared his diagnosis did not look promising.

“I was told to prepare that he was going to pass and that he had a better chance of passing than living,” remembered Leslie. “They said that even if he did live, he would never come home. He would be in like a long-term nursing facility.”

Wayne was on a ventilator for more than a week with a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. His wife says he lost nearly 40 pounds in just one month.

“He just got worse,” said Leslie. “They tried everything. They tried all the medications. Nothing worked on him.”

Leslie says she spent every single day she could at Wayne’s beside. She would sing songs to him or do other things to make him feel more comfortable.

“I wanted him to still have dignity,” said Leslie. “If he has to be here, then he’s going to have the dignity to go through this.”

Fifty days after he started feeling sick, Wayne died from complications due to COVID-19. Leslie says doctors told her his history of vaping may have contributed to the impact the virus took on his lungs.

Leslie says Wayne was not vaccinated.

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‘EVERY DAY I ASK WHY’

Leslie and her daughter say they got the COVID-19 vaccine in May.

“I did it for my family,” said Leslie. “I did it was for my mom. I wanted her to feel safe with me being around her.”

She says it was Wayne’s fear of the vaccine that kept him from getting the shot himself.

“He was afraid,” said Leslie. “He was afraid that the vaccine was going to hurt him and that fear just took over.”

She says part of his fear stemmed from the misinformation he would read about vaccine side effects.

“I’d talk to him, but he just still didn’t feel comfortable,” said Leslie. “He was just really afraid.”

In his final weeks, she says Wayne expressed feelings of regret.

“He said he was so close to going with me to get that vaccine,” said Leslie. “He wished that he had.”

Leslie says with Wayne gone, she grapples with ‘What if?’

“Every day I ask why,” said Leslie. “What if he would have went and got the vaccine? He would still be here. My life would be so different right now.”

Leslie Wrigley sat by her husband's bedside for weeks while he battled COVID-19.
Leslie Wrigley sat by her husband's bedside for weeks while he battled COVID-19.(WMTV)

SHARING WAYNE’S STORY

Leslie says it’s difficult opening up about her husband’s COVID-19 journey and his decision not to get vaccinated. But she says she doesn’t want other families to go through the same pain.

“I just don’t want him to be somebody else that died from COVID,” said Leslie. “I want them to know he was a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a nephew and a friend.”

Since she’s shared Wayne’s journey publicly on her Facebook page, Leslie says many people have told her they’ve decided to get vaccinated.

“I don’t want anybody to go through this,” said Leslie.

Gundersen Health officials say they’re encouraging people to get vaccinated to help prevent severe illness and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, like what Wayne experienced.

If you’re interested in financially assisting Wayne’s family with funeral costs and medical bills, click HERE.

After losing a husband and father, a family opens up about their heartbreak.
After losing a husband and father, a family opens up about their heartbreak.(WMTV)

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