“The hardest decision I’ve ever made.” Remembering a Keizer dad who died of Covid at 43

Tim and Amy Senske attend a University of Oregon vs. Oregon State basketball game in Corvallis. (Courtesy/Amy Senske)

Tim Senske kept his wedding ring in a box at his Keizer home.

As a commercial plumber, he knew he could all too easily lose it down a pipe on a job. Instead, he tattooed his wife Amy’s name on his ring finger soon after their marriage in 2014.

“I was like, ‘You know you don’t have to do that, right?’” Amy remembered telling him.

She was holding that hand on Jan. 25 when Tim died from Covid at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, a few weeks after testing positive for the virus.

At 43, Tim Senske is one of the youngest people in Marion County to die from Covid, a disease which has mostly taken the lives of older Oregonians. To date, 285 people in Marion County have died with Covid, three-quarters of them 70 or older.

Amy, 44, said those numbers were on her mind when her husband first tested positive on Dec. 31.

He’d been at home recovering from hand surgery in mid-November and tested negative for Covid before the procedure. During his recovery, Amy said he went to the store and had a few people over. But he wasn’t working and there wasn’t an obvious place where he could become infected by the virus.

He began feeling unwell in late December. On the last day of the year, he became short of breath.

“He would walk to the bathroom and he would just be really winded,” she said. The family went to Kaiser Permanent’s Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas for a test, which came back positive. Tim was admitted to the hospital.

Amy said the family was shocked, but not yet worried. She knew other younger people who had survived Covid and assumed he would get better.

“They kept saying he’s young, he’s pretty healthy,” she said.

The couple began dating in 2011 after connecting the year before through work. Tim visited a showroom Amy was working at to buy plumbing equipment.

“He was coming in to get parts and I almost literally ran into him,” she said.

They’d worked together briefly in 2005 but hadn’t stayed in touch. By the time they met again, both were single with kids, and Amy said Tim asked for her number. She turned him down. She’d just bought a house and wanted to focus on raising her son, she said.

But the two had a passion in common: football. Amy was a dedicated Chargers fan, while Tim was “a sad Raiders and Packers fan,” Amy said.

The Chargers were scheduled to play the Raiders in a few weeks.

“Okay, if my team wins, you have to go out with me,” Tim told her.

“Yeah, your team is not gonna win so, okay,” Amy said.

After the Raiders took the day, they went to Best Little Roadhouse and played mini-golf. Amy, who hadn’t been sure she had time for a relationship, was all in.

“After our first date I decided I would make the time,” she said.

When Tim was first admitted to the hospital, he struggled with breathing. Unable to watch TV together, Amy texted him, sharing her reactions to an episode of The Walking Dead which he’d already seen.

“He was laughing at me, he’s like, ‘Oh my gosh it just gets crazier and crazier,’” she said.

Amy asked how he was feeling.

“Pretty good, I’ve got the IV bag and good oxygen,” he told her.

“Okay, I’ll talk to you in the morning,” she said.

Overnight, Tim’s fever spiked to 105 degrees and his oxygen levels began to crash. His doctors decided to intubate him and put him on a ventilator. By Jan. 6, he was in a medically induced coma.

Amy texted him the next morning asking how he was feeling and never got a response.

Over the next few weeks, the virus attacked nearly every system in his body. His kidneys, heart and lungs had been tested and were in good shape when he was first admitted to the hospital, Amy said. All began failing.

Tim needed dialysis. He developed pneumonia, then sepsis. He was transferred to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center on Jan. 14.

On Jan. 24, Amy got a call from his doctors saying they were “cautiously optimistic” he might be improving. A few hours later, she got another call. It was time to come say goodbye.

Amy, Tim’s mother and his sister were at the hospital on Jan. 25 and agreed it was time to take Tim off the ventilator. They held his hands as the hospital chaplain prayed.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made but yet the easiest because I didn’t want him to be in pain,” she said. “All the machines just went quiet and he passed away.”

Tim and Amy Senske kayak in Anacortes, Washington on a trip (Courtesy/Amy Senske)

GoFundMe for Amy originally set up to help cover Tim’s medical bills was updated to help with the funeral. On that page, Amy posted a dozen photos of Tim enjoying his life, posing with his kids, wearing a cheese head and Packers jersey and cuddling with his dog. It was how she wanted people to see him – not as someone in a hospital bed surrounded by wires and tubes.

“Some people have a hard time expressing their emotions about love and he was not one of those people. He wanted to be that guy, be that family man, be that provider,” she said. “He was a hard worker and he loved the beauty of everything.”

Now, Amy said she plans to use any extra money to help support Tim’s 16-year-old daughter and stepson.

She said she’s glad to see more people getting vaccinated and new Covid cases dropping, because it means fewer families might have to go through what she did.

“I want people not to have to go through this because it’s terrible,” she said.

Amy knows that the reality of her husband’s death hasn’t fully hit her. She’s spent the past few weeks planning and holding a funeral, then getting his affairs in order. Mostly, she said she worries about Tim’s daughter and her son, who Tim cheered on at baseball games.

“I’m a fixer and I can’t fix this,” she said.