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What It’s Like Having Your Loved One In The ICU, On A Ventilator, Fighting COVID-19

Sara Jancsy, who's husband Paul has been in Saratoga Hospital's ICU for 14 days, tells us in her own words.

Saratogian and Major in the New York Air National Guard Paul Jancsy and his wife, Sara. (Sara Jancsy)

When I was listening to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press briefing on the morning of April 9, I was shocked to learn that the statewide lockdown had only been in place for 18 days—and that it had only been 39 days since the first COVID-19 case had been reported in the state. It’s hard to wrap your head around; the amount of stress we’ve all been under has made the pandemic seem like it’s been going on for a lifetime.

Now, let me ask you for a quick favor: Close your eyes and try to imagine that your life has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of your loved ones is in the hospital, in the ICU, on a ventilator, fighting for his or her life. All you can do is hope and pray that the infection will pass and he or she will get up and walk out someday soon.

Hopefully, that’s not your reality. But it has been for Saratoga Springs resident Sara Jancsy, the wife of Paul “Tucker” Jancsy, a major in New York’s Air National Guard, who’s been in Saratoga Hospital’s COVID-19 unit, on a ventilator, fighting for his life, for 14 days.

Paul Jancsy, who graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 1998. (Sara Jancsy)

From the photos I was able to find online, Paul, a Saratoga native who graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 1998—my graduating class, too—looks a lot different than I remember him looking when we were in high school together. Back then, he was a skinny, affable, intelligent guy, with a memorable smile, who was a member of the National Honor Society. (We weren’t in the same friend group, but we did have classes together, as far as I can remember.) From there, Paul went on to earn his BS in aeronautics from Dowling College in Oakdale, NY; and an MBA from Benedictine University in Lisle, IL. Paul then split a 17-year military career between the US Air Force (Active Duty) and the Air National Guard in New York. In the Air Force, Paul reached the rank of major, piloting B-52 aircrafts and serving as an Aircraft Commander for the 96th Bomb Squadron (a.k.a. the “red devils”). For the Air National Guard, he served with the 105th Airlift Wing (137th Airlift Squadron) as Chief of Tactics and a C-17 Aircraft Commander. (In conjunction with his Air National Guard duties, Paul’s also actively volunteered with the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, the New York State Airshow and the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Youth Flying Program.) Paul had forward-deployed with the US Army in support of ground combat during Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and had been deployed in the Pacific Theater in support of the Continuous Bombing Presence Mission. And additionally, he’d piloted humanitarian missions with the Air National Guard and served as an air liaison between the Air Force and the Army. On top of all of that, Paul’s also worked as a first officer for Delta Airlines for three-and-a-half year, where he’s flown Airbus A320 and A321 passenger airplanes.

Paul Jancsy has worked as a first officer for Delta Airlines for nearly four years. (Sara Jancsy)

Sara met her husband Paul in 2013 at her best friend’s wedding—”Paul is my best friend’s first cousin, and I was a bridesmaid,” she tells me—and the two are newlyweds, having just married last April. In fact, the couple recently celebrated their one-year anniversary on April 1, virtually, because Paul had already been admitted to the hospital by then.

After writing about Paul’s GoFundMe page yesterday, I was compelled to reach out to Sara. I asked if she’d tell you about what she’s been going through over the past two weeks, with Paul in the hospital. She agreed, and with the help of her father William Johnson, Paul’s father-in-law, she emailed me the note below (edited only slightly for punctuation and clarity).

There can be little if any preparation for mental demands imposed by situations such as this, having your husband and/or a loved one in the ICU for an extended period, in critical condition, on ventilator support, while daily reading of the toll being imposed on the country by this pandemic. All of the unknown elements are most difficult to deal with. All of the standard [questions] one would ask in such a situation are unanswerable with any degree of certainty—how is COVID-19 treated? What is the duration of the virus? What should I expect? and many others. Studies have reported an array of symptoms and outcomes that are too often unknown or present a moving target. All this [comes] at a time when what is desperately desired is just the opposite: specific answers and projected outcomes.

The inevitable result is wretched heartache and worry during this often protracted period of uncertainty. For us, the outpouring of support from family, community and friends locking arms locally and around the world has been an undeniable and much appreciated support during this time.

Ergo, we are forced to deal with the situation day by day, update to update, celebrating each small victory and relying on faith and mutual support to address setbacks. At all times, you know that people love and care about you, but while experiencing the full scope of this hardship, the full scope of the love and support fills one’s heart with rays of sunshine. If I could summarize the support we have received from around the world, I could truly create a “Tucker Tribe.” Master Sergeant of the [Air National Guard’s] 105th [Airlift Wing], Tony Galioto, has been at the forefront of support, organizing a GoFundMe page in honor of Paul, which greatly exceeded expectations as the goal was achieved within hours of its posting.

Major Paul Jancsy, who served as a pilot in the US Air Force. (Sara Jancsy)

If I could provide advice to other families on this same path, I would recommend standing strong together, and trusting and supporting the professionals working countless hours to nurse our loved ones back to health. And [to just] believe—believe in what provides you an emotional foundation to support and help you cope with this difficult time. Overcoming the obstacles in life’s road, like this, helps us find an internal resilience and strength we never knew we had. We get from one day to the next, not through tears and sadness, but [through] joy and laughter, remembering the fun times. Rest assured, the current generation of children will someday read of this pandemic in schools and history books and come along with a vaccine to preclude a repeat in the future.

During this surreal, torturous battle Paul has been fighting, we have a strong and unwavering belief in the medical professionals at Saratoga Hospital. They are staring at the virus straight on, and with us, they have been both compassionate and transparent while diligently working demanding schedules, organizing the chaos of patients pouring in the door. With all that, they continue to take time to care for our loved ones, while maintaining a high level of virtual communication with families as we are sheltered in place.

To these heroes, whether [they’re the] medical professionals treating patients or [are] our heroes who are the sick patients, [let us say a] loud “thank you.”

Unfortunately for us, at this time, the story does not have a definitive conclusion, although the strength intrinsic to Paul, combined with the strength and unwavering support of so very many, provides a clear and powerful light for all of us to focus on at the end of this long, dark, tunnel. My intent here is to convey a positive tone combined with a dose of reality for others. The truth is that not everyone survives this, but people need to hear of the often-overlooked success stories, which are also an integral part of these events.


Interested in reading Saratoga Living‘s entire “What It’s Like Series”? Click on the links below.

What It’s Like To Actually Have COVID-19 In The Capital Region

What It’s Like Being A Skidmore College Senior During The COVID-19 Crisis (Opinion)

What It’s Like Being a Capital Region Nurse During The COVID-19 Crisis

What It’s Like Being A Parent Who Believes His Child Has COVID-19

What It’s Like Being A Small Business Owner During The COVID-19 Pandemic

What It’s Like Being A Capital Region Doctor During The COVID-19 Outbreak

What It’s Like Grocery Shopping During The COVID-19 Pandemic (Opinion)

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Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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