St. Louis Jewish family grapples with coronavirus

(From left) Jason and Samantha Weinhaus, Kelli (Weinhaus) Harvey, Brittanie and Ryan Weinhaus, and Jane and Michael Weinhaus are grappling with the effects of the coronavirus. 

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Five members of one St. Louis Jewish family are battling the coronavirus. 

Ryan Weinhaus and his wife, Dr. Brittanie Weinhaus, each tested positive for the virus, along with Ryan’s older brother, Jason, 37. Their mother, Jane Weinhaus, 63, a beloved teacher at Temple Israel’s Deutsch Early Childhood Center, remains hospitalized in the intensive care unit and on a ventilator at Missouri Baptist Hospital where she has been since March 15.

Her husband, Michael, 63, who also tested positive for the virus, was taken by ambulance to Mo Bap on Friday (March 20) because he was experiencing extreme shortness of breath. He, too, was placed on a ventilator but is now breathing on his own, though he remains in the ICU.

While the Weinhaus family seems among the hardest hit in the St. Louis area for coronavirus, at least three other teachers and one parent at TI have tested positive, according to statements from the congregation. 

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Yesterday, Ryan posted about his experience on Facebook:

“Hello everyone! Unfortunately, our family has battled and continues to battle a heck of a lot over the past 10 days. For those of you who don’t know, my mom has been very sick with coronavirus. She has been in the ICU, hooked up to a ventilator and sedated since last Sunday (March 15). When I say my mom is the best, I truly don’t know if there is another human on this planet as special as her! She would do ANYTHING for anyone and truly has a heart of gold. We need her to get better.

“Yesterday, my dad was rushed to the ER as he couldn’t breathe. He’s also admitted to the ICU and ironically two doors down from my mom. I just spoke with him, and it was amazing to hear his voice. He is already making best friends with the nurses and talking golf with them!

“My brother (Jason, 37), (wife) Brittanie (31), and I have all had some obstacles during this time, but we all seem to be overcoming them, getting healthier, and on the road to recovery.

“The amount of calls/texts/emails is absolutely amazing. The love that everyone has shown for our family is something we will never forget. It melts our hearts and means the world to us.

With that being said, my mom and dad have a very long road to recovery and we need every prayer and positive thought you are willing to provide for them! They mean the world to us and I know they do to you too! Let’s get them healthy!

Thank you for your love and support!!!

Friends of Ms. Jane, as she is known at the preschool, have started a campaign in her honor on Facebook,  sharing photos of her and using the hashtag: “Be like Jane.”

“If [Deutsch Early Childhood Center] had a heartbeat it would be Miss Jane. We love you and can’t wait to get one of your famous hugs,” wrote one person. 

On Sunday, Ryan and Brittanie, and Jason, quarantined in their respective homes, each said they were doing much better. 

Ryan explained that he and Brittanie, both of whom found out they had tested positive for the virus Saturday (March 21) on her 31st birthday, were on vacation in Scottsdale, Ariz. when they started feeling ill. 

“It hit us all differently,” said Ryan, explaining that the couple first felt bad on March 14. “My wife had flu-like symptoms and she developed a pretty nasty cough. I haven’t coughed once but I’ve had achiness and a bad headache and shortness of breath.”

By the time the couple fell ill in Arizona, Ryan’s mother had been hospitalized in St. Louis. The assumption was coronavirus but her test results hadn’t come back yet. Concerned that they, too, might have the virus, Ryan and Brittanie rented a car and drove back to St. Louis from Scottsdale, arriving home on March 18.

“We were spooked — we didn’t want to infect anyone by flying,” said Ryan. “So we took a 24-hour road trip.”

Ryan and Jason explained that their mother first felt sick on Sunday, March 8. She called in sick to work the following day and went to urgent care to have a flu test, which came back negative. 

“Her initial symptoms were cough, body ache, fatigue and headache,” Ryan recalled, adding that his mother “never gets sick” and had no pre-existing health conditions. “She just wasn’t getting any better, so she went in.”

On Thursday of last week, Michael Weinhaus took his wife to the emergency room, where she tested positive for pneumonia. 

“When she coughed on one of the doctors, the doctor suggested she get a test for coronavirus,” said Jason. “On Saturday, March 14, when drive-thru testing began, my aunt took her to get tested.”

Jason said he got tested that afternoon. When both he and his mother’s tests came back positive four days later, Michael, Ryan and Brittanie also got tested. 

But by then Jane was already in the hospital and on a ventilator. Ryan and Jason report that their mother is progressing, but they’ll be relieved when she can breathe on her own.

“My wife is about 90 percent recovered, my brother is about 90 percent and I’m pretty close to that,” said Ryan, adding that he and his wife plan to work from home for the next several weeks. “But it’s been a rough week for sure. It’s been even harder on my brother because he has a wife and two small children.”

As a result, says Jason, he’s spent the last week quarantined in the family’s basement, eating and sleeping there.

“I stared at the wall for the first few days because I felt so bad,” he said. “The hardest thing has been not talking to my mom for seven days. I’m hoping she will jump out of this soon. I suppose the silver lining in all of this is the support and love we all feel. It’s amazing how the community has rallied around us.”

Ryan echoes those sentiments as well. 

“The power of prayer and positivity has been pretty remarkable. It meant the world to me and I know it will mean the world to my mom,” he said. 

“I don’t pray a whole lot but ever since this happened, I started saying some prayers and they’ve helped my mindset. Your head wants to go to the negative, but slowing down, taking a deep breath and saying a prayer has really helped”