Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

COVID-19 takes heavy toll on Ruston family

Sunday, April 26, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

Courtesy photo

Johnathan Brantley (left) poses with his father John Brantley on Jonathan Brantley’s wedding day.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has hit Lincoln Parish.

But it has hit one Ruston family particularly hard — much harder than the hits for which Johnathan Brantley is still remembered years later from his playing days as a defensive back at Grambling Lab High School and then Grambling State University.

Brantley lost a close friend to COVID-19 the night of April 10. A little more than an hour later, he found out the coronavirus had also claimed the life of his father, John Brantley, who would have turned 70 on July 28.

The next week, Johnathan Brantley learned that his cousin Sherrie Roberts of Ruston had also succumbed to COVID-19.

John Brantley grew up near Ruston High School and was a graduate of Lincoln High School, where he played baseball and was friends with former Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard.

The elder Brantley was an Air Force veteran who briefly worked at Louisiana Tech before starting his own construction business. Later he operated Father and Son soul food restaurant with Jonathan Brantley and was enrolled as a student at Grambling State at the time of his death.

“He started off in the hospital in Ruston on Monday but they took him to the Veteran’s Hospital in Shreveport on Thursday,” Johnathan Brantley said of his father. “Other than the fever the only symptom he had was diarrhea. I took him to the hospital because he got dehydrated. I thought he just had a stomach virus. They put him in ICU on Wednesday because he had blacked out, and then took him to Shreveport on Thursday because he wanted to go there.”

But by Friday morning Johnathan Brantley said his father was already trying to get an ambulance to bring him back to Ruston.

“He said he wanted to come home and selfquarantine,” Johnathan Brantley said. “So they were trying to get his oxygen levels up.

Johnathan Brantley said that left him feeling good about his father’s chance at recovery. But suddenly his world changed in only a little more than an hour’s time.

Johnathan Brantley’s friend Patrick McDonald and John Brantley died with a 1:15 time span.

“Patrick died at 8:45 (p.m.),” Johnathan Brantley said. “I called my dad to tell him about that and got off the phone with him around 9 o’clock. My dad was sad about that but still in good spirits. And that had me feeling pretty good about things. Patrick had been on a ventilator for a couple of days. My father was never on a ventilator. His fever had spiked up to 103 - 104 (degrees) for a couple of days but had broken. The doctors and nurses were just trying to get his oxygen levels back up and were hoping they’d be able to send him home.”

But that would never happen.

“My sister called me at 10:30 that Friday night,” Johnathan Brantley said. “She had called to check on my dad and the doctor heard my sister was calling the nurse and he asked for the phone. He told my sister my father wasn’t responding. They tried putting him on the ventilator. But the doctor told my sister that it had been so long without him responding (to resuscitation attempts) and my father was gone. My sister just happened to call right before they declared him dead.”

Johnathan Brantley said knowing his father was hospitalized with COVID-19 was excruciating for the entire family.

“We didn’t know if we had been exposed — if we were going to get sick or not,” he said. “All we could do was wait. It made me paranoid. It’s been way more than 14 days now since we last saw him, so I guess we’re OK. I hope we are.”

He said his family is doing good despite the multiple losses they suffered.

“My kids loved their grandfather, so it hurts, but they’re doing good,” Johnathan Brantley said. “The one image I can’t get out of my mind is taking my father to the hospital and seeing him brought inside. I couldn’t go in with him. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would see him.

“I loved him so much. Everyone loved him. He was my rock. He just meant the world to me.”

Ten days later after John Brantley passed away, Johnathan Brantley posted a Facebook tribute message for his father that read:

“Even though you’re gone, we are still a team. Through our family I’ll fulfill our dreams!”