Thursday marks exactly one year since the World Health Organization categorized COVID-19 as a global pandemic. A lot has changed within the past 12 months, and that's an understatement for those who've lost loved ones, had the virus or continue to battle the illness.
Even with the curveball 2020 threw, some are choosing to take the good from the bad and finding the positive in a situation in order to move forward.
Two North Texans, Tim Tarpley from Fort Worth and Hunter Howard from Dallas, both have been impacted by the pandemic in different ways, but they're both using their experience to make a change.
Tim Tarpley's Story
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Tim Tarpley has spent years dedicating his life to health, wellness and fitness, but over the last 10 months, it's really been a focal point.
The personal trainer lost his job in March during the pandemic, three months later COVID-19 hit close to home.
"We don’t know how they got it, but my mom was sick for at least a week if not longer, so she was full-blown COVID, so by the time we realized something wasn’t right and we took her to the hospital," explained Tarpley.
He dropped off his 80-year-old mother, Betty, at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth on June 9, 2020. Two days later he took his dad, Curtis. The couple both tested positive for COVID-19.
Their conditions continued to decline. Tarpley and his sister were able to visit their mom and speak with their dad on the phone, but a week later on June 18, 2020, they passed away.
The couple's story gained national attention after it was learned the two, who were married for 53 years, died holding hands in the same hospital room.
"It's comforting that they could pass away holding hands, but that had nothing to do with love, love didn't magnetically pull their beds together right it was the instigation of a hospital worker, who was just like, 'Hey could we do this?' And that guy, I've never met him, he took it on his own will and put them together, the last 40 minutes," said a choked-up Tarpley who is grateful to the hospital worker for that act of compassion.
"I mean I’m at peace with it and I think a lot of times there’s good in every situation and I can't say even what happened was a bad thing, it was life and you have to be able to just roll with it," said Tarpley.
He also contracted COVID-19 last summer, but his journey opened up a new opportunity to express himself and to help others who may be in the same situation.
“Within three days of having COVID, parents passing away, within days later I was the mindset of, 'what can I do?' Not focusing on the closed door, you have to take care of yourself before you can help anybody else," said Tarpley. “I was exercising three days within having COVID-19. I wasn’t doing crazy workouts, but I mean I was in here teaching online classes on Facebook Live."
And since then, he's kept up the classes, only missing them during the freeze this year when the power went out.
"It’s a lot about surviving COVID, it’s about grief, it’s about things like that’s been my therapy," said Tarpley who also considers himself a life coach.
Hunter Howard's Story
On March 11, 2020, Hunter Howard found out he tested positive for COVID-19 and believes he contracted the virus while on a trip to Colorado.
"I was on the front edge of this, I was probably one of the first 10-to-15 people in the state of Texas that was diagnosed with COVID," said Howard.
“It took me about six months to get past it, so as I was learning about COVID learning about my issues, about why my headache wouldn’t go away and why fatigue wasn’t going away," said Howard.
The health care entrepreneur said he became more impassioned to figure out what was wrong with him when he saw that even doctors didn't know.
He created the Global Pandemic Coalition and is a founding member of Long COVID Alliance, a research group that currently has a proposal to the National Institutes of Health for $1.25 billion in research funding.
“What we’re trying to do is bring people together get the most information get the research together for people who are suffering long term," said Howard. "But also help with the vaccine roll-out, help with testing roll-out so we can kind of control this and kind of prepared to handle things like this in the future," said Howard.
Last week he held the Young Professional Organizations (YPO) Global COVID Relief Virtual Reality conference with 1,000 CEOs from across the globe.
"We joke that we’re swapping masks for goggles," said Howard about the virtual conference and trade show.
He had guests such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN, Dr. Celine Gounder with the White House COVID Task Force, Dr. Peter Hotez from Baylor College of Medicine and other experts about what they've seen, experienced and looking to the future.
“We were caught off guard, it was a black swan event but we’re learning from it (COVID-19) and hopefully we’re now learning so we can put this behind us and react more quickly in the future," said Howard.