Stephanie Lynn Smith and Jamie Bassett were looking forward to getting married Nov. 13.
They had planned for Smith's older brother to officiate the wedding in front of their parents at a scaled-down ceremony in a field in Lubbock, Texas, where Bassett had proposed. Bassett said they had favored the location, which he believes is an abandoned golf course.
But the couple did not marry. Smith spent her wedding day in a hospital where she had tested positive for the coronavirus and was diagnosed with pneumonia.
"Today was supposed to be my wedding day," Bassett wrote in a Facebook post Nov. 13. "Instead, Stephanie is in the hospital getting her oxygen levels up and I haven't seen her in two days. This really sucks and I just want everything to not be this way."
Five days later, he and Smith's family would rush to the hospital, only to learn that she had died. She was 29.
Her mother, Oralia Smith, said Wednesday that her death certificate lists COVID-19 as the cause of death.
Bassett said that his fiancée began feeling ill on Nov. 3 but that she was not exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms.
By Saturday, Nov. 7, food started tasting strange to her, he said, but she did not experience smell and taste loss, a symptom of the coronavirus. Smith suspected she had shingles, which she had had before, so she sought treatment the same day.
"She was stressing about the wedding," her mother said. "She went to see the doctor about that, and he gave her medication for that."
But she did not get any better.
"Come Monday, Jamie decided to take her to the hospital," her mother said.
Smith was diagnosed with COVID-19 and pneumonia. She was sent home and was instructed to take vitamins, get rest and monitor her oxygen, Bassett said.
"Tuesday, she was extremely fatigued," Bassett said. "She honestly might have slept, like, 20 hours that day."
She also did not eat much and could not keep anything down, he said. The next day, he monitored her oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter. Her oxygen level was low. So he and her mother took her back to the emergency room Wednesday.
"We kissed her and told her we would see her and that she would be OK," her mother said.
That was the last time they saw her alive in person.
'They couldn't get her pulse back'
At first, Bassett said, Smith's nurses said that her diagnosis "wasn't super severe" and that she just needed to get her oxygen levels up.
In a Facebook post Nov. 15, she appeared to be in good spirits.
"Thankful today for nurses who pray. And will get giddy for me when I show them a photo of my wedding gown," she wrote. "Not out of the woods....far from it. But I promise I'm feeling every single prayer. Thank you!!"
But as the days went by, her condition worsened. On Nov. 17, she was moved to intensive care.
"They said, again, it was not necessarily anything to be extremely concerned about," Bassett said.
Smith had been speaking with her family and her fiancé on the phone and via FaceTime. She was having anxiety attacks, and the hospital staffers believed they could better monitor her in intensive care because her room would have windows, Bassett said.
"The anxiety did kick in, and they would try to control it, and it would work for a little bit, and it would come right back," Oralia Smith said.
She believes the isolation took a toll on her daughter. As a child, she said, Smith would be more fazed by alone time than any other punishment because she loved to be around people.
"Her laugh was so contagious. It was so loud. It was so funny," her mother said Wednesday through tears. "Just to hear her. Always the loudest one at family gatherings."
On the early morning of Nov. 18, Bassett said, Smith's mother called to tell him the hospital was going to allow them in to see Smith. By about 5:30 or 6 a.m., Smith's parents and brother and Bassett got to the hospital.
"They told us that they'd lost her pulse four times, and they brought her back three times with CPR, and for the last one they couldn't get her pulse back," he said.
It was a fear realized, Bassett said Wednesday, because the hospital would allow COVID-19 patients visits only if their conditions were bad.
"And so, when her mom told me that they were going to let her in to see Stephanie, I kind of had that in the back of my mind," Bassett said. "I kind of knew it but didn't really want to admit or let myself know it, that something was wrong. I was kind of dreading it and had that in the back of my mind the whole time we were driving to the hospital."
'This is someone that you don't meet every day'
Bassett, 31, a data analyst who had played bass in a band called Phantom Wilds, and Smith, who was the alumni coordinator at South Plains College in Levelland, met through a dating app in June 2017. They had agreed to tell people they met at one of his band's shows.
They began officially dating April 13, 2018. Because they had begun dating on a Friday the 13th, they had chosen Nov. 13, 2020, as their wedding date. Nov. 13 was also the day Bassett proposed last year.
He knew Smith was the woman he wanted to marry at least a year before he proposed. She had volunteered with Operation Baby Watch, a program in Lubbock that provides hospitalized foster children with adult sitters.
"She sat with this girl who had been pretty severely injured and talked to her and let her play with her and sang to her and hugged her," Bassett said. "And when she came back to my apartment after that, she was really, really upset and really, really devastated over what the girl had been through."
It was something he always found charming and endearing about her.
"And I think that was the moment that I was like, 'This is someone that you don't meet every day,'" he said. "This is an uncommonly caring and loving person who just wants to fix the world."
He will also remember her for her can-do attitude. "That was just her mindset: You can do something to help. If you are willing to look for it," he said.
Smith's family is unsure how she contracted the coronavirus. Bassett said that she had been working on a rotating basis with two others in her office since the summer and that she had limited visitors at work for the last several months. Smith had been approved to work from home for the two weeks before the wedding, he said.
Oralia Smith said her daughter and Bassett were both very careful to wear masks, even when they visited her and her husband at their home.
She said she has taken comfort in the number of people who have made donations to the South Plains College Alumni Association in her daughter's honor. Smith "had a huge heart," which her mother believes was why she excelled at her job of the past several years.
"We didn't expect all of this, and it seems like Stephanie is still working," she said. "She's still doing what she was doing. It really is truly helping us get through this.