Local man “days away” from kidney transplant dies of COVID-19


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The COVID-19 deaths may seem like just a statistic. But behind those numbers are real families left grieving tremendous loss. A McCook County man who was days away from getting a new kidney died of the virus on Saturday at Avera McKennan hospital, according to his family.

Mary Ann & Troy Nelson at high school prom

An engineer by day, music was Troy Nelson’s hobby. He played the bass guitar and saxophone and was lead singer in “The Cinch.”

His wife, Mary Ann, played the drums. That was how they met in high school.

Mary Ann Nelson: I was the only one who could play the drum set?

Angela Kennecke: With him?

Mary Ann: Yeah, and he wanted me to be in his band.

“In 1982, we had one guitar, a rented saxophone,” Troy Nelson said in a 2000 in YouTube video produced by Scott Pearson.

Troy Nelson in “The Cinch” video by Scott Pearson

Nearly 40 years and five children later, Troy hadn’t been feeling well. Two decades ago, he had undergone a kidney transplant, but the kidney had a congenital defect and he was back on the transplant list.

“Troy was probably days, weeks away from getting a new transplant. It may or may not have made a difference. I don’t know,” Mary Ann said.

Instead, on St. Patrick’s Day he came down with symptoms of COVID-19. While Mary Ann and one of their daughters had minor symptoms, Troy’s cough was a concern.

“I could audibly hear it without a stethoscope or anything. So I knew he had pneumonia and he was very stubborn and never wanted to go into the hospital or anything. So I had to talk him into it,” Mary Ann said.

Troy and Mary Ann Nelson and their children in 2006

It took few days to get them back, but test results showed he had COVID-19. Mary Ann was able to have Zoom calls with Troy in the hospital, but not being by his side was unbearable.

“I understand the need to keep people safe and the desire. However, I think keeping loved ones away from a sick person is a mistake,” Mary Ann said.

Mary Ann and her family were praying for Troy in the hospital parking lot on April 4, when her daughter got her attention.

“Then I finally open my eyes and she points up into the sky. And there’s these airplanes up there drawing hearts in the sky. It was very meaningful. It gave me a lot of peace to see that,” Mary Ann said.

Hearts in sky over Sioux falls on April 4

A few hours later, Mary Ann was allowed in the room to see her husband, but he was unconscious.

“As soon as they got unhooked everything that was pretty much it. And then at the very, very end, I got to spend his last moments.”

He was always worried people would see him as weak. And no, he wasn’t weak at all. He was very strong. The strongest person I knew. He never once complained about his lot in life, or his physical pain, or anything. He just took it all with dignity.

Mary Ann Nelson on husband Troy

Mary Ann has a large extended family and she says despite the isolation, she is getting a lot of support. When possible, they will hold a memorial service.

Troy Nelson was 53.

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