After caring for COVID patients throughout the pandemic, a nurse from Jefferson Hospital in Washington Township now needs help from the public after his own medical emergency resulted in his hands and feet being amputated.
“It is really just highlighting this story of a hero who needs our help. People have rallied but the kind of support they need is beyond local,” said Amy Hill, a friend of Jon Aquino and his family. “Their perspective is amazing and they have a lot of hope and have been really thankful for the support they have been getting.
“They are just trying to stay positive.”
After both Jon Aquino and his wife Kay worked as nurses during COVID and welcomed a baby girl, they decided to take a well-deserved vacation to Avalon at the end of August. Jon became ill on the Monday after, but the family assumed he had a cold or the flu and thought little of it. The next day, he decided to seek help at an Urgent Care facility.
Young and healthy otherwise, Jon was sent home. The next day, he was flown by helicopter from an emergency room to Cooper Hospital, and that’s when a seemingly harmless illness turned into a situation that changed the Aquino family’s life forever — meningitis.
“Early, Wednesday morning, he woke up and his toenails and fingernails had a blue tint,” Kay recalled. “I told him it was time to go to the ER. A few hours later, they flew him to Cooper from the ER. Jon had a brain bleed, but because he was clotting too much, his fingers and toes were turning black … “
Because of his brain bleed, Kay added, there was no medication that could save Jon’s hands and feet. By the time he was healthy enough for surgery, all four limbs had to be amputated.
Transferred from the hospital to a rehab on Oct. 14, Jon not only hasn’t seen his children in weeks, but the family has lost its main financial provider. So Hill hopes to have the community offer help to keep the Aquinos’ life together.
“They are just young married babies with babies,” Hill noted. “I know there have been a lot of tragic stories to come out of COVID, but they are just good people that need help. This was a person who was caring for people; it just all feels so crazy.”
Not only will the cost of the emergency care be astronomical, but the family will have to renovate to make its home handicapped-accessible. The Aquinos are exploring prosthetics and a possible hand transplant that would not be covered by the family’s insurance.
Kay is hopeful that starting a new full-time nursing position with health benefits will bring in more money. But the timing of that is uncertain.
“I would say the GoFund Me (page) would be the best way if people wanted to help,” said Kay. “My husband worked for Jefferson, so our insurance wasn’t able to pay all of the costs from Cooper. And if we decide to pursue the hand transplant, that would be all out of pocket …
“It is just a lot of expenses,” she added. “We are so grateful for anything.”
The Aquinos and their friends are seeking the public’s help in any way possible. The GoFundMe page has raised more than $45,000 so far, but Kay also asks for thoughts and prayers.
“I guess the hardest part is probably that this is all unknown for us,” she explained. “We are both nurses, but we don’t know anyone who is young with no hands or feet. We have young children, which is also hard …
“There is no guidebook for how to handle this level of trauma. We have to take it day by day.”