GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — A drive back from a family reunion on Grand Island changed Aaron Shull's life forever. His wife, Jodi, was in the driver's seat.
"I started to look down at my cell phone and she was trying to express something to me ... I had to go over it in my mind,” he said. “She never got out a full sentence. But what she was trying to express was ‘I need to pull over.’ She got out the two words ... ‘I need.’ ”
Aaron says Jodi veered the car to the right before losing consciousness. The car hit the barrier, which managed to slow the car down enough so Aaron could grab the wheel and get it to stop.
"I didn't notice any head wounds on her,” Aaron Shull said. “I just thought, 'sleep. Knockout.’ ”
EMTs arrived on the scene and tried to save Jodi. But when they brought her to the hospital, Aaron learned she was dead. The cause? Sleep apnea, a disorder Jodi had for a long time.
"Over the years it thickened the walls of her heart so much as the doctor described it to me, I believe the arteries and stuff could not get through that wall somehow or it was so affecting the circulation that it was just a matter of time," Aaron Shull said.
On that day, Aaron lost the love of his life. Looking at pictures, he recalls the day they became engaged.
"It was one of the best days of my life,” Aaron Shull said. “If I could do it again, I would.”
Now Aaron and his 17-year-old son Jacob are trying to get their lives together in the midst of such a great loss. Before Jodi's passing, Aaron's family was having financial difficulties and unable to make rent. The eviction moratorium, put in place during the pandemic, is now almost up, so Aaron is unsure about his future living situation. He and Jodi also were food delivery drivers, but now their car is totaled from the crash. Aaron's brother Jonah decided to start a GoFundMe to try and raise money to help.
"I just felt the situation was so desperate because I worried about him being homeless," Jonah Shull said.
In just a few days, the Shull family says they've received an outpouring of support.
"The people are just ... I mean, I can't believe it,” Judy Shull, Aaron's mother, said. “Every day people have donated and some of the donations are just overwhelming.”
The Shulls' message to the world: do not take your health for granted. The Shull family says people with sleep apnea should take it seriously and have it treated. They also recommend that those with the disorder wear a CPAP mask while they sleep to avoid severe complications such as those Jodi had.