Behind the statistics of 500,000 Americans lost to COVID-19 are the lives and families which have been forever changed by the virus.
Jaime Bouldin was 44 years old when she succumbed to complications related to COVID-19. A native of Warren County, she was raised in the Rock Island area by Paul and Cathy Bouldin.
“She was my older sister,” said Mandy Eller. “I followed her around like a puppy for all of my childhood. Anywhere she went, I wanted to go. I looked up to her. She was a wonderful person and an amazing older sister.”
Jaime was an adventurous child.
“We were raised on a small family farm, so we grew up outdoors,” said Eller. “We played on the Dunlap Dairy Farm. We rode 4-wheelers. We’d hike to the waterfalls. Things like that. We’d go to the pond and have an algae fight. We were kind of Tom-boyish. It was a really great way to grow up.”
An appreciation for the outdoors continued into adulthood, but was stymied in her late 20s by rheumatoid arthritis, which causes pain, swelling and deformity in joints. It was a major setback to a previously active lifestyle.
“She had been such an active outdoors person and RA took a lot out of her. It really did,” said Mandy. “Despite it, she always maintained her optimism. She always looked on the bright side of things. She always fought really hard against being sick. I know she didn’t get to go on as many hikes as she wanted to after that. She loved the outdoors, and I know not being able to go bothered her a great deal.”
COVID struck in July 2020. At that time, Jaime lived in Lebanon and was without health insurance.
“She had lost her job so she was afraid to go to the hospital,” said Mandy. “She was afraid the expense would cost her everything she had. It’s terrible that things like that happen in this country. She waited, and probably too long. She woke up one morning and her skin was orange. She was having some really bad symptoms. She went to a nearby hospital. She nearly died several times that month. She had pneumonia and sepsis and all sorts of terrible things.”
Complications of COVID resulted in liver and kidney failure. Jaime was placed on dialysis and added to waiting lists for transplants.
“She decided she wanted to come home. She had been living in Lebanon for I think eight years,” said Mandy. “She said she wanted to go back home to Rock Island. She said the air was sweeter in Rock Island and she just wanted to see the sun rise every day. So, that’s what she did. She stayed with mom, but every 10 days or so, she’d have to return to the hospital for a week or so. Her health was deteriorating pretty quickly.”
Two weeks after a planned liver transplant failed to take place, Jaime passed. She was surrounded by loved ones with “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison playing.
“Van Morrison was her favorite musician. The sun had just come up, and I said, ‘Jaime, you caught another sunrise.’ It wasn’t two minutes later and she was gone. I hope I never have to do that again. I wish no one ever had to do something like that because it’s very difficult. As morbid and as hard as it was, I think that part was sweet. She wanted to hang on for one more sunrise and she did. At least we got to be with her. She wasn’t alone. She was surrounded by people who really, really loved her.”
During her illness, Jaime purchased charms for her sisters, Mandy and Paula, with instructions that they be given if she passed. The charms were inscribed, “A sister is God’s way of making sure we never walk alone.”
“I’m waiting on a little bit of her ashes,” said Mandy. “They’ll be in a little cylinder. I’m going to put it with the charm and take it on all my hikes. There are so many hikes that she didn’t get to go on. I can, I do and I love it. So, I want to make sure she goes with me on those.”
Jaime Bouldin passed away Nov. 8. She was the mother of an 11-year-old daughter.