Wife who lost 44-year-old husband says 'COVID is real and it can happen to you'
Martin Haalstra, 44, of Belmont, Ont., was a father of 3
An Ontario woman who lost her 44-year-old husband to COVID-19 on Sunday has issued an online plea, asking people to not underestimate a disease that killed a healthy father of three.
Martin Haalstra went from diagnosis to death in a little more than a week.
"I don't share this so you can feel sorry for us, I am doing this so you know that Covid is real and it can happen to you," Lisa Haalstra wrote in a Facebook post this past Sunday, the same day an online obituary says her husband died.
"I have heard so many times in the last week people don't think it's real because they don't know anyone that got it, or got it bad. So, if you know Martin, you can now say you know someone who got it," she wrote.
Haalstra declined an interview with CBC News Wednesday, as she continues to makes sense of her husband's death. He leaves behind three children, two boys and a girl who range in age from about eight years old to 17. They are described in his obituary as "the centre of his world."
In her post, Lisa Haalstra said her husband's rapid decline began in mid November with a simple sinus infection, a cough and trouble breathing.
He tested positive for the coronavirus, with the family isolating from him as a precaution. An ambulance was called the day after the diagnosis, when he couldn't breathe. Haalstra says her husband was in the ICU when he died on Nov. 29.
"He would have done anything for anyone with expecting nothing in return," the obituary reads. "He loved nothing more than spending a day watching soccer, hockey, horse riding or any other passion they had. His sense of humour was one of a kind, but it's his devotion and integrity that truly stand out."
Martin Haalstra was a graduate of the University of Waterloo and worked as an engineer with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation with an expertise in steel bridge construction. He was an active volunteer with his kids local sports groups. His obituary web page includes condolence notices from the Whitecaps London Soccer Club and from engineers who worked with him.
Think about Martin
The family lives in Belmont, in southwestern Ontario not far from Aylmer where 2,000 people gathered last month to protest masking and other restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of a pandemic that has now killed more than 12,000 Canadians.
In her post, Lisa Haalstra implores people to do everything they can to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19. She said her family's loss should serve as a lesson to anyone who doubts that COVID-19 has the potential to kill even healthy people.
"Right now, we need people to be real about Covid," Haalstra wrote in her post. "Stop saying why are we taking all these measures when 98 per cent of people are fine. Let's start talking about the two per cent that aren't going to be mild cases. Let's change our mindset and think about protecting them."
Lisa Haalstra also calls on people to keep COVID-19 in mind as the holidays approach.
"Think about Martin and our story when you make your Christmas plans this year. I don't need people to reply and say how sorry you are and how you are praying for him. Believe me when I say we know that. I need you to tell everyone and share his story because if this keeps one of you safe then it's worth making this public."
'Hits too close to home'
Monique Guikema knows the Haalstra family well and said people in Belmont, a town of a just over 1,000 people, are upset about his death and working on ways to help the family.
"You see a family that everybody knows is hurting and it just hits too close to home," she said.
Steve Vanek got to know Martin Haalstra through hockey. Both men have sons who played together on the Chatham-Kent Cyclones team. The Cyclones posted a notice of condolence for Haalstra on their website this week.
"I'm in shock, it's very sad that a 44-year-old man who seemed healthy could pass away from this dreadful disease," said Vanek. "It's an eye-opener, that's for sure."
People in the Belmont community have set up a Go Fund Me page for the Haalstra family.
News of Haalstra's death comes as the London area continues to see surging COVID-19 case numbers.
The Middlesex London Health Unit reported four deaths and 46 new cases of COVID-19 for the region on Wednesday, marking the highest daily count since the pandemic began.