Trent Anderson is among the youngest of New Brunswickers to die from COVID-19.
After testing positive in mid-September, Anderson, who had no known underlying health conditions, battled insomnia and had difficulty breathing for days.
By Sept. 25, he was admitted to the emergency room in Fredericton. The following day, he was transported to Saint John Regional Hospital, where he was unconscious and connected to a respirator.
Anderson, a 39-year-old and father of two sons and two stepsons, died early on Oct. 1.
"I really didn't believe it was gonna be as bad as it was," said his wife, Jessica Anderson, while fighting back tears.
"The doctor called me about 3:30 in the morning to say they didn't think he was gonna make it. They were gonna let me come see him, but then they called and they said I wouldn't have time to get there. They let me FaceTime. I got to tell him that I loved him.... I don't know if he heard me."
She said both had been through difficult marriages and divorce and "we just ... we had something really special."
Jessica said her husband received his first dose of vaccine shortly before the onset of his symptoms.
"He decided to get one because they put regulations in place — you weren't allowed to go to sporting events and things — and so he wanted to have his vaccine so he could bring his boys to hockey [and the like]," she said.
She doesn't know what to make of the fact that his symptoms started just days after getting the vaccine.
"I don't know if his symptoms were worse because he just had it, like back-to-back, I don't know if it played a role at all." she said.
Experts say it takes at least two weeks for the immunity to take hold, and that two doses are needed to combat more transmissible strains, such as the delta variant.
A firefighting community mourns a beloved member
Anderson was born and raised in Fredericton and was a firefighter for 16 years. He was away from work this past year due to a workplace injury.
But Barry Durling, the president of the Fredericton Fire Fighters' Association, said Anderson was still an important part of the team.
"I knew Trent from the day he was hired ... when he got his assignment, it was my platoon. I worked with Trent for 16 years," said Durling.
"He was a great firefighter and a great person. He had a smile that could light up the room and he had a giggle that would make us all laugh. Just a great guy."
Durling said Anderson always had the full support of his colleagues, and said that extends to his family.
"We'll wrap [our] arms around them and look after them from all over town. I let them know that the boys have 100 fathers now. We'll make sure they're OK."
Memory upheld by children and family
Anderson leaves behind his two boys, ages nine and 11, and stepsons ages 13 and 17.
Samuel Cormier, Anderson's 17-year-old stepson, said he knew Anderson from church. He said he was happy for his mother when they first got together.
Anderson was known to take his kids to sports games and out to hunt, and was always looking for ways to bond with each child.
"I have an interest in firefighting," said Cormier, who is a reservist with the Royal New Brunswick regiment.
"Back when I first met him — I was in Grade 9 at the time — he took me to the fire station. I've been there before when I was younger, but it was a different experience being there with him versus some random person that doesn't really want to give you a tour."
Cormier said that Anderson was direct, but had a big heart.
"The loss that we've experienced is difficult. And me, personally, I've never dealt with a death in the family before and I think everybody else has … so it's just been hard to kind of cope and deal with."
But Cormier said the family is receiving a lot of support and they'll get through it.
As for funeral arrangements, Jessica said it could take weeks to organize. Two family members are in hospital due to COVID and others are isolating.
"I'm still in shock. It's hard to think I'm not gonna turn around and just see him, you know?" said Jessica.